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.”

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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

Late Degradation

by MSC Student Life Intern, Lewis

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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…” 

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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.

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.

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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

Calling All Young Artists! The Good Life Organization wants to hear your Voice!

The Good Life Organization, based out of Chicago and impacting cities across the nation, is putting out an open call to youth artists to share their voices, experiences, and art through a student organized, student led platform–The Youth Voice Nation Book.

What is the Good Life Organization? Watch and Find Out!

The Youth Voice Nation book was put together by Fulfill the Dream students as a means to showcase the work of young artists around the country. “Youth Voice Nation communicates a powerful message of hope as it accurately describes the harsh realities faced in communities around the nation, while also painting a picture of what is still possible.” The last edition of the Youth Voice Nation book had work from students all around the United States from cities like Los Angeles, CA to Providence, RI from Madison, WI to Cincinnati, OH. You can order the previous edition of the book or get the App in the Android and Apple Stores.

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If you’d like to contribute to the Good Life Organization’s next Youth Voice Book or know any youth looking for the opportunity to share their stories E-mail Marlon Salgado at m.salgado2013@gmail.com

Interested in learning more about The Good Life Organization? Follow their newsletter, Living the Good Life.

On This World AIDS Day

Take a moment to enjoy some poems, meditations, and prayers compiled by the Huffington Post.

“May these prayers and meditations offer hope to those living with HIV and AIDS, strength to all of those who continue to care for those people living with AIDS, wisdom to those who search for a cure, and courage to those who fight for a world where people living with HIV/AIDS are given respect and dignity.”

Read More…

If you are in the UW-Madison area, Crossroads is hosting World AIDS Day at the the Red Gym. Harlan Pruden, Two-Spirit activist and educator, will be speaking tonight in the On Wisconsin Room. Be sure to join us on this World AIDS Day!

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Click the Photo for the Facebook Event Page

What to Do in the Wake of the Ferguson Decision

by MSC Student Life Intern, Hiwot

Those who have been deeply following the events in Missouri since Mike Brown’s death in August and those like me (who have only been reading blurbs via Twitter and Tumblr and attempting some self preservation through disconnection) found ourselves in a single space, all somber, disappointed, unsurprised, and in pain.

What do we do? What can we do?

Immediately, cities across the nation had protests springing up in response to the verdict. Here in Madison, folks gathered in the Multicultural Student Center to await the verdict and commiserate about it afterwards.

Today in Madison, at 3:30PM, there will be a rally at the Jail on 115 W Doty.

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Click the Photo to reach the “Ferguson to Madison” Facebook Event Page.

And in response to this death, and the unfortunate deaths of numerous Black people, the gnawing, nagging question of, “Do we matter?” arose. The response was #blacklivesmatter, the response was organizing, rallying, protesting, and discussing the deeply rooted problems that allow so many Black lives to end violently without finding them proper justice. With the organization of the Gender & Women’s Studies Department of the University of Arizona and other sponsors like The Feminist Wire, there will be a Black Life Matters Conference from January 15th to January 17th. Registration for the conference is now open.

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From the “Black Lives Matter” Facebook page.

Remember, the MSC is a resource for students across campus. Check out hours listings and feel free to come into the space to use our facilities and resources, to borrow books from or social justice library to become more informed, or to talk to our interns and staff. We’re here.

Whether your response to the verdict is to organize, whether it is to sleep, to write, to cry, to pray, to sing, or to run into the arms of a loved one may you all stay safe, stay connected to the people who care about you the most, and stay alert.

How do we start living the Wisconsin Idea?

by MSC Student Life Intern, Kathleen

Wisconsin Idea Banner on Bascom Hall via University Communications

The Wisconsin Idea is the principle that UW-Madison faculty, staff, and students are recognized contributors to the Wisconsin Idea through their work “beyond the boundaries of campus to benefit the state, nation, and world.”

I have a feeling that we don’t all completely live up to the Wisconsin Idea 100% of the time. I believe we have room for growth. Amidst stories about Beyonce, Facebook posts pleading for another Candy Crush life, there are so many things happening in the world. For example, have you heard about what is happening right now with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)? ISIS is targeting Christian indigenous groups, one being the group I belong to, the Assyrians.

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To help those affected by ISIS, please visit assyrianaid.org

I know that when people on campus don’t know about ISIS or who Assyrians are, I get a little disappointed. I try to explain to them Assyrians are one of the oldest civilizations known to mankind. In Wisconsin we have a large Hmong population, so sometimes it helps to talk about the similarities of the Assyrian experience and the Hmong experience. We are both a nation. The legal definition of a nation being a distinct group of people that speak the same language and have the same customs that possess historic continuity and are distinguished from other similar groups by their origins and characteristics.

That was a lot of information thrown at you, but don’t you feel like you learned something new? Don’t you feel well informed? Aren’t you curious about other ways you can learn more? Here are three suggestions to help us all get closer to achieving the Wisconsin Idea:

  1. Learning other people’s history can help you understand your own. Before I came to Wisconsin, I had no idea who the Hmong people were. When I found out, I invested my time in learning more by taking Asian American Studies classes. While in these classes, I learned a great deal about similar historical experiences of the Assyrian and Hmong people including statelessness.
  2. There are always multiple sides to a story. What I usually do is Google search “world news” or if I want to know more about a specific country or nation I substitute the word “world” with the country or nation’s name. Because there are so many sides to a story, I like to get as many perspectives as I can, and I find that Google searching “world news” provides me with an array of sources. What works for me may not work for you, so I encourage you all to find the news sources that you enjoy and use that as a place for reference when you’re feeling uninformed or just bored. There are many ways to gain information within our technologically advanced world like Facebook, Twitter, BuzzFeed, Instagram, and so on. If you’re always on Facebook, feel free to check out the United Nations Facebook page to see what’s going on in the world. Or if you’re bored and just taking up time taking BuzzFeed quizzes to get to know yourself better, you can check out the BuzzFeed news section to get to know the world a little better.
  3. Even though we could know a lot about what’s going on in the world, we can’t know everything. Just because I took an intro to Asian American Studies class doesn’t mean I understand the full history or experience of Asian American people. Similarly, just because my parents tell me what my family in Iraq is going through in the Middle East, doesn’t mean that I have the complete picture.  There will always be more information and more to learn.

What we can do is try to inform ourselves to the best of our abilities, and luckily we have the beauty of living in the age of technology to help us do that! Happy reading!

Doggy Using Computer