Margin to Center: New program gives voice to voiceless

A young black child nervously walked up to a police officer and pulled on his sleeve. Having endured several gunshot wounds, the child wondered if the officer would help them find their parents. Instead the child is shaken off, the officer barely having glanced down.

This is the premise of one of the short stories read by author Nisi Shawl in the PUB last week. The excerpt, taken from her science fiction anthology Filter House, kickstarted the four month long event series, Margin to Center, aimed at spreading awareness about issues faced by people who are pushed to the margins of society. The event series will include speakers from First Nations, Guamanian, African American, and LGBTQ communities and will be examining the reasons behind why minority groups have historically been made to seem less significant than their non-minority counterparts.
Members of the Multicultural Center, First Nations club, and Project Pride, say they are excited for the conversation the series will generate and say that it will not only be a chance to spread awareness about important issues but will allow students to form clubs and continue the conversation on their own.
“Oftentimes the stories, contributions, and histories of people of color or LGBTQ communities, are either invisible or entirely erased,” says Rezina Habtemariam, Director of Student Life. “So the goal of this is to create a space for visibility and share what’s often left out of dominant discussion.”
Habtemariam, who has been organizing the series with the Arts and Entertainment board (A&E) since fall quarter, says the series will be a chance for students to explore issues they have previously been unexposed to, like “pinkwashing” – the promotion of “gay friendly” idealism to improve public image – and mass incarceration. She says these are subjects many people may be unfamiliar with and will be a chance to both educate and engage students.
A&E has been communicating with Members of the First Nations Club and Project Pride on several of the events, including “Pinkwashing,” and Habtemariam says club input has been influential in how they were organized.
The First Nations club, which visited Native photographer Matika Wilbur’s museum exhibit fall quarter, expressed an interest in having her visit campus when Habtemariam suggested Wilbur attend the series. Wilbur, who is currently photographing the 566 federally recognized Native tribes of both the U.S. and British Columbia, will be sharing this work on March 8.
James Ardeña, the Program Manager in the Multicultural Center, has also been coordinating with A&E since the series started and says that while the series will be a chance for students to explore issues they may be unfamiliar with, it is also a chance for dialogue to continue amongst students who may be under-represented on campus.
“People who identify with a specific group will come because they are interested,” Ardeña says, “Through this, we can maybe try to recruit them and get them to form clubs to get together and form mutual support.”
Ardeña also hopes that the Pacific Islander community, who do not have a club on campus, will use the series as a way to open discussions on issues important to their community. He says that the Craig Santos Perez event could act as a catalyst, as the poet will be exploring the history of violent colonialism in Guam.
Yadiwa Cain, an employee of the Multicultural Center and a student at SCC, also sees it as a chance to strengthen the campus community but points out that international students are not currently represented in the Margin to Center series. He says that is something he hopes to see incorporated in the future and says that an interactive event, such as a game day, where students from different countries could share games from around the world, would be a fun way for students to find common ground with one another and at the same time maintain their cultural roots.
“It would be a chance for students to feel like they don't have to assimilate,” Cain says. “That being different is ok but at the same time give them an opportunity to interact with students who may be different from themselves.”

_Gregor Elgee

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