Shouting Out Significance: On What Matters at UW-Madison

By MSC Student Life Intern, Hiwot

Like so many places at UW-Madison, the Kohl Center holds a special type of significance. It is a place where Badgers of all walks of life come together. Each August the new class fills the stadium for convocation. Here, new students are welcomed to UW in a place that serves as a point of pride for Badgers around the world.

Sports play a huge role in the culture of UW-Madison, whether we’re reveling in a victory or mourning a loss, like the one that pulled us out of the Final Four.

from Madison.com; UW’s loss to Duke

The Kohl Center has also been a gathering place for people experiencing loss off of the basketball court. In December, more than 300 people had silently and peacefully gathered after news of the non-indictment of officer Daniel Panteleo, the NYPD cop responsible for the July 2014 choking death of Eric Garner.

That same freezing December night, the inside of the Kohl Center was flooded with Wisconsin Red. Students, parents, and fans gathered to support the team in its game against Duke University. The mourning crowd had been met by a different set of reactions as folks exited the stadium. While some heckled those standing in silent solidarity, scoffing at the signs that read #BlackLivesMatter, others signaled their support, raising their hands and even saying “thank you” to the protesters.

One of the most powerful moments of the evening was when someone walked straight from the doors of the Kohl Center into the crowd, joining the protesters in solidarity. I wonder, what would’ve happened if more people had joined? So often issues of racism and concerns with justice are silenced and minimized, preventing people from creating a socially just world where we can all be seen, valued, and honored. One heckler expressed this sad fact best by saying, “This is America…if you don’t like it, leave.”

VigilOnline

Those few people who did cheer on the protesters after cheering for the Badgers proved that though this campus can be divided, it doesn’t need to be. This is a place that should belong to us all. Why not wear Wisconsin red while holding a sign that asks Whose Blood is On Our Streets? Yelling “Go Badgers!” is something we’re all expected to do but the declaration that Black Lives Matter is met with disinterest, even disbelief. What would happen if the two were seen as mutually acceptable? When students are worried about their finals AND racial issues at the University, do they lose their right to be a Badger?

click image to read more about #blacklivesmatter on campus

Photo by Nate Moll. Click image to read more about #blacklivesmatter on campus

This is to say that it should be possible for someone to be a Badger, a person of color, a sports fan, a scholar, an activist, and any and everything else that makes them who they are. What would campus be like if we were able to openly call out microaggressions the same way we call out fouls in sports?

Vice Provost for Student Life and Dean of Students Lori Berquam was one of those silent supporters on that cold December Night. In a piece in the Wisconsin State Journal Berquam wrote that, in spite of the cruel and racist remarks aimed at the vigil, students maintained a level of “dignity and grace.” Berquam went on to say that they “clearly displayed the values this university holds dear.” She lauded students for organizing the protest, noting that “our students are scholars, they are problem-solvers, and they connect their passion with their purpose.”


This has been a trying year in regards to police brutality and race relations all around the U.S. and with the local death of Tony Robinson it is clear that Madison, Wisconsin is not bereft of these complicated truths. Through it all, students of color and allies alike have studied and come to class, and many will be graduating in a little over a week. Throughout this basketball season it has been clear that the highly successful team is a cornerstone of UW-Madison. There is no question that those athletes “matter.” Here’s to the hope that all badgers—on and off the court—can be seen, valued, and kept safe as we pursue degrees and strive to live full and free lives.

 Congrats to the Class of 2015

#BlackLivesMatter

April 30th: Honoring the Victims of the Garissa University Attack

garrisa

#147NotJustANumber

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Schedule:
12:30-12:35 – Arrival and welcome
12:35-12:40 – Prayer and blessing
12:40-12:45 – Prayer and blessing
12:45-12:50 – Song
12:50-12:53 – 3 minutes of silence

For More Info Email Selah Agaba at sagaba@wisc.edu

(For more information on the attack, read here or here.)

Come Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with ELLA!

​Join Educated Leading Ladies Association for their Fourth Annual Cinco de Mayo Event: Celebrando Nuestras Raices. Last year you had folkloric dances, a DJ and food, HOWEVER, this year they’ve been working 10 times harder to bring to you the best Cinco de Mayo celebration yet! We will be having a guest speaker, Jorge Rodriguez from the UW-Madison campus, a folkloric dance group performance by Danztrad, as well a Jarocho dance group, and last but not least a live banda: La Fuerza. Food, refreshments and Mexican candy will be served. Come out to celebrate Cinco de Mayo the right way and engage yourself in a culturally enriching experience.

celebrando

WHEN: Friday, May 1

WHERE: Great Hall, Memorial Union

TIME: 7-11 pm

The Power of Storytelling

by MSC Student Life Intern Bao Nhia 

april is asian american heritage month


Since the beginning of Fall 2014, I’ve been working on an oral history project called, “Paj Ntaub: Weaving Women’s Voices Across Generations.” The project helps nine UW Hmong American female students collect the oral histories of Hmong women elders while teaching the students to re-write these narratives as a way to preserve culture, history, and language. The project anticipates an eventual multimedia website and anthology of Hmong women writing. I presented my oral history project Friday April 17th in St. Paul, Minnesota at the Hmong National Development Conference.

image courtesy of Bao Nhia

image courtesy of Bao Nhia

I was excited when I first learned about the burgeoning project. I wanted to participate because I hoped to reconnect with Hmong women elders and also practice speaking Hmong and English languages. Unfortunately, I’ve lost my Hmong language skills due to growing up in the American school system.

Throughout the course of this project, I have learned a lot about the importance of preserving culture, history, and language. I also discovered many similarities I had with my own mother and aunt, whom I interviewed for the project. Below is an excerpt from my aunt’s story taken from my oral history project:


Tick, tock, tick tock

The sound of the golden oval clock of Jesus at The Last Supper made that familiar loud clicking noise as I was trying to start my interview with Aunt Ka. My sister told me that the clock was a gift from the sponsors when she and my parents first arrived in America. It’s been hanging in our home for almost thirty years! Next to the clock is a photo of Aunt Ka graciously hugging Mom outside a Thai hotel while Mom was visiting family back in Thailand. Aunt Ka wears a sweet smile showing her teeth and throwing her arms around Mom as she stands still and looks at the camera with a pressed lip. (This is actually her smiling—she smiles a lot more now.) The photo was taken in 2003 and the time period was explicitly expressed through both of the sister’s wardrobe—black and white colors of floor length maxi skirts and long sleeve blouses. For an added touch, Mom was sporting the popular permed hair look and lightly curled forehead bangs. Mom explained to me that she dressed Aunt Ka in her clothes that day as they paraded the old village marketplace a few blocks down the street. The photo clearly shows Aunt Ka’s admiration and respect for Mom who is almost ten years older than her and often looks over her. Aunt Ka has always been close to Mom. Both sisters have even similarly expressed longing to return to their parents in their interviews.

image courtesy of Bao Nhia

image courtesy of Bao Nhia

The sun was exceptionally warm that day. Or was it the heat from her very own watery eyes? Aunt Ka was screaming off the top of her lungs to leave with her family to America. “You become upset with yourself. You wonder why everyone goes but you. When they leave, so many Hmong, but not a single is your cousin.” Aunt Ka remembers crying for the rest of that day. She was left behind in the refugee camps of Thailand while her entire family left to America because she had to stay and marry a Hmong man twenty years older than her who got her pregnant. She was 15 years old at the time. This man became her husband and made ten years time with him the longest and miserable time period of her life.”


Throughout this oral history project, I’ve learned to really appreciate stories from Hmong women. It is not often that older Hmong women have a voice at the table. The decision-making and talking in the Hmong culture is often done by the husband. This project allows for Hmong women elders to showcase their untold stories for a large audience. This is especially significant for Hmong women, young and old. I believe that story telling can foster a conversation and acceptance of Hmong women to be “at the table.” Hmong women are smart and very capable of work, education, and motherhood. But if a Hmong woman does not get the chance to tell her story, her capacity will continue to be overlooked.

image courtesy of Bao Nhia

image courtesy of Bao Nhia

Late Degradation

by MSC Student Life Intern, Lewis

kanye

In February, Kanye West went on The Breakfast Club and publicly slut-shamed his former partner of almost 2 years, Amber Rose. Amber Rose was a stripper. His current partner and wife, Kim Kardashian, has been considered, by some, to be a porn actress. Kanye West has loved both of these women. And yet somehow Amber Rose is considered the dirty, shameless, jealous ex-partner, bent on destroying the happy family utopia that is the West’s. My point here is that though both women have well documented sexual pasts, only Rose is demonized for her sexuality. This has to do with (perceived) Blackness.

Rose, who self-identifies as biracial, does not benefit from the same white privilege that has kept Kim in the good graces of the public and the media (and Yeezy) despite a seemingly similar sexual history. Because of this white privilege, Kim is allowed to express her sexuality while Amber Rose is condemned for it, and now Ye has joined in on that condemnation.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog Beyond Black and White‘s post on Kanye’s interview,

Then he says this: “It’s very hard for a woman to want to be with someone who was with Amber Rose. She wasn’t sending nothing. I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim. Don’t ask me no more [laughs] I just want to be respectful.” TRANSLATION: Amber is a “dirty” black(ish) broad who’s not virginal. Kim is a “dirty” white broad who’s not virginal. But we all know when black women aren’t virginal they’re THOTS…” 

amberrose

This is a surprising oversight from the same artist who spent the better half of the last decade preaching strong political messages in support of Black culture. The same artist who wrote songs like, “New Slaves” and “Golddigger.” The same artist who has repeatedly claimed he is stonewalled from the fashion industry because of his Blackness.


Honestly, what it sounded like to me is that Kanye’s personal insecurities began to poke through, and like so many men, he remedied this by bashing women. He was uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable being confronted about his once love for a woman that the media has so eagerly degraded, and thus outpoured a string of excuses straight from chapter 1 of “Sexism for Dummies (read: Insecure cis-gender men).” He was uncomfortable talking about his ex-partner’s sexuality. The same sexuality that he once found so attractive, he now sees as threatening. As a cis-gender man, I have been around these same conversations myself – i.e. Bob’s ex-girlfriend has hooked up with someone new and confronted with the news Bob responds by calling his ex-partner a slut, a whore, and essentially reducing any and all feelings they shared for each other to the uglier side of his own insecurities.

I am disappointed (but not surprised) in Kanye. I am disappointed in Kim for allowing her husband to publically slut-shame another woman. I am disappointed.

Do better, Yeezus.

The Benefits of Taking up a Leadership Position in a Student Org

by MSC Student Life intern, Maikoau


Many students walk into college not expecting to get involved in student organizations. Of those that do get involved, only few take up an executive board, or e-board, position within their org. Of course, with this responsibility comes dedication and time commitment but it is definitely worth it. Whether you are involved in a student organization or Greek organization, you can make a difference within your org and on campus just by contributing your time and dedication.

Here is a list of benefits from holding an E-board position within your organization.

  1. Sense of self/belonging

Being involved in an organization helps you find your place on campus. Because our campus is so huge, it is often difficult for students to find where they fit in. But as part of the e-board for an organization, you are able to find yourself as well as establish a purpose for yourself. A student organization provides you with a support system and a close bond with many others who may share the same aspirations as you.

interns

  1. Professionalism

In the real world, it is important to be professional. But let’s talk facts; no one is born with perfect professional skills. You gain them through experience and practice. Holding an e-board position in an organization is a way in which you are able to practice your professional skills and get critiques on how to improve. The more experience you have in a professional environment, the more skills you pick up along the way that will prepare you for post-college.

  1. The Power to Make Big Change

An e-board position allows you to bring awareness to what you want to see change in the community and on campus. As an e-board member, you are able to guide your organization in the direction that will promote its existence.

  1. Give Back to Your Campus

One major gain you get from being on the e-board is the opportunity to make an impact. Your group will be assisting you as you work towards your organization’s goals and take action. Leading your organization to making a change on campus will not only benefit the student body but your organization as well because the impact that you leave will be remembered. You will develop many followers who look up to you and be a leader.

globe

I personally, have benefitted so much from my involvement in student organizations I can speak for any of these five benefits. One of my current positions as Treasurer of the Multicultural Greek Council has allowed me to network and improve on my leadership skills. Although this does take up a lot of my time, I would not do anything differently. I was challenged to manage my time which has taught me to prioritize and work on my organization.


Getting involved in leadership positions within student organizations have many more benefits than just the ones I mentioned. You also enhance your communication skills along the way as well as being able to inspire other students. And if you are not involved in any student organizations, I highly suggest you start exploring. One way to start is checking out the Multicultural Student Center which houses many multicultural student organizations. Feel free to visit our website for more information on how to get involved and check out CFLI, the Center for Leadership and Involvement, or log into WIN, the Wisconsin Involvement Network, and search through the different student orgs on campus.

Cultural Appropriation, Appreciation and Exchange…What does it all mean?

by MSC Student Life Intern, Daisy

As a person of color and an aspiring fashion designer I get asked a lot about cultural appropriation in everyday life, Halloween, and in fashion. Cultural appropriation can be very confusing, especially when trying to distinguish it from cultural exchange and appreciation.

To start of lets define some terms:

As a Mexican American, I have seen people paint their faces as sugar skulls and wear sombreros and ponchos on Halloween while yelling out “I’m Illegal, deport me!” While these may be very obvious and blatantly racist and disrespectful forms of cultural appropriation, other forms of cultural appropriation are not as easy for people to identify and understand.

Untitled

Cultural appropriation is harmful because it perpetuates stereotypes, exercises modern day imperialism by treating other cultures as something that can be taken and commoditized, exotifies cultures, disrespects and steals from minority and marginalized groups.

A helpful way to look at this may be to call it social plagiarism. We all know that it is not okay to take something that is not yours when it comes to academia. Why should it be any different when it comes to cultures? It is important to do your research and credit where something comes from.

I often get questioned on why it is okay for people to wear French berets as a fashion statement and not a Native Headdress to a music festival or a Mexican sombrero to a drinking party. Or why is it okay for people of color to wear jeans and suits but not okay for people of privilege to sport box braids and “ghetto fab” clothing.

Cultural appropriation involves a dominant majority culture taking something from a marginalized group. This often has a double standard attached to it as well; for example how is it that when someone of privilege sports dreadlocks or gelled down baby hairs because they think it is cool are viewed as edgy and hip whereas someone part of the culture is be seen as “ghetto” or unprofessional.

It is also important to realize that in many cases of cultural appropriation all that is stolen is the pretty and aesthetically pleasing aspects of it. For example, when someone wears a geisha costume (like Katy Perry in her 2013 AMA performance) and uses it as a costume or prop, all cultural significance and meaning is stripped away. But it is so beautiful, what is wrong with appreciating its beauty and wanting to wear it? The problem here is that while Katy Perry may look beautiful, at the end of the day, she gets to take off the costume and does not have to deal with the stereotype and exoticism she just reinforced.

click the image to read more about Katy Perry’s culturally appropriative VMA’s performance.

A culture is not a prop, it is not something to be taken and altered for your pleasure, it is not something to wear for personal expression because you think it is cool, it is not a fashion statement.


For more literature on understanding cultural appropriation read this zine, Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation