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

A Message From The Director of the Multicultural Student Center in Light of Recent Events

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Image via the Badger Herald online: “UW students hold vigil outside basketball game for victims of police brutality”, December 3, 2014.

As the director of the Multicultural Student Center (MSC) and as a member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison community I am deeply saddened and disgusted by the ongoing violence, racism, and incivility taking place around the nation and in our community. Over the last few weeks I have been at numerous events where students have gathered to discuss the violent patterns of racism and how it has impacted their lives. I am distraught by the recent incidents in Ferguson, New York, and other cities that do not make headlines; however, I find inspiration and hope as I see students gathering to support one another. Although our communities of color may seem small on this large campus, this small community is powerful, compassionate, and committed. I have also been encouraged by the involvement of allies who are striving to support and learn more about people of color and the impact of racism.

As we are directly confronted with alarming acts of violence around the country and hate speech, bias, and ignorance on our own campus, I ask that our students of color, particularly Black and African-American students, reach out to campus resources to find the support they need. There are numerous spaces on campus that are here to ensure students of color are included, valued, and supported. The MSC is here as a place to gather with friends and/or visit to speak with a staff member on an individual basis. The African American Student Academic Services continues to host dialogues and community spaces to support one another. University Health Services continues to be present at #blacklivesmatter events, and they are equipped to support students of color’s mental health and emotional needs. Please feel comfortable to visit them to meet with a professional mental healthcare provider.

Continue to demand what you need in order to be successful on this campus, and know you have partners who are right beside you. As students you have the right to shape your community. Although progress may seem slow and hopeless, your statements, rallies, and voices have an impact. You also have the right to take time for yourself to ensure you are mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually well. The burden of social transformation should not fall on the shoulders of our people of color who are striving to be successful students. The issues we are facing are not only one community’s issues; these are the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s issues. I ask that we all be engaged in these conversations and continue working towards making our campus a more just, inclusive, and safe place for all of us.

Sincerely,

Joshua Moon Johnson, Ed.D.

To find support or learn more about the events discussed, please stop by and see the MSC staff. The Multicultural Student Center is located on the 2nd floor of the Red Gym at 716 Langdon Street.  All students are welcome.

Weekend Job Board: May 4

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is an organization with more than 1.6 million members across the country and is the nation’s largest and fastest growing public service employees union. They have a number of paid internship and employment opportunities available for sophomore, junior, and senior level students who are committed to social and economic justice and are interested in gaining hands-on experience in helping primarily low-wage workers  gain rights on the job and win better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Alternative Union Break is a program for students interested in learning about the labor movement and the work of union organizing. Participants travel to a union organizing campaign for five days of intensive classroom and field training. Program participants will be provided with lodging and transportation during the week as well as a $125 stipend for food.  Students are responsible for providing their own transportation to the campaign site. For more information and to apply, visit www.unionbreak.org.  Next session: Summer 2012 in Madison,WI. June 3rd – 8th.  Deadline to apply:  May 23rd.

Organizer in Training Program: You go where the workers are organizing; you must be able to travel. You would be helping workers fight back strategically in states across the country by helping them build their union and collective power for public service workers. Available upon graduation.

Union Scholars Summer Internship/Scholarship: Open to students of color interested in a career in social justice and union organizing. Stipend for the summer and $5,000 Scholarship upon successful completion. Deadline to apply  is 2/28/13 for Summer 2013.  Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors eligible to apply.  For more information on any of these programs, and to apply, visit  www.afscmeorganizers.org or contact Sherry Wright:  swright@afscme.org, 513-910-0998. Continue reading

Recommended Reading: Varieties in African American Religious Expression

Dr. Anthony Pinn defines black religion as the quest for complex subjectivity. Last week, Dr. Pinn gave a public talk on Body Language: Embodiment, Materiality and the Reframing of African American Religion as the kick off lecture for the R3 Symposium. Check out the live stream to hear him talk about how black bodies occupy time and space and how African American religion is about the effort to make life meaningful and ask existential and ontological questions.
 In the final installment of our recommended reading lists themed around Race, Religion, and Representation, we offer a list of books for those interested in exploring African American religious expressions including atheism, humanism, feminism, philosophies, African traditional religions, and earth-based traditions. 
  1. The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin
  2. Existentia Africana: Understanding Africana Existential Thought – Lewis Gordon
  3. Reel to Real: Race, Sex, Class at the Movies  – bell hooks
  4. Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations – bell hooks
  5. Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self Recovery – bell hooks
  6. Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics – bell hooks
  7. Rock My Soul: Black People and Self Esteem – bell hooks
  8. Salvation: Black People and Love – bell hooks
  9. Island Possessed – Katherine Dunham
  10. Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery – Na’im Akbar
  11. System of Dante’s Hell – LeRoi Jones
  12. The African Aesthetic – Kariamu Welsh-Asante
  13. African Christianity: An African story – Ogbu Kalu
  14. Afrocentricity – Molefi Kete Asante
  15. Selections from the Husia: Sacred Wisdom from Ancient Egypt – Maulana Karenga
  16. Autobiography of Malcolm X  – Malcolm X
  17. Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars – Sikivu Hutchinson
  18. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism – Patricia Hill Collins
  19. Black and Not Baptist – Don Barbera
  20. The Black Humanist Experience: An Alternative to Religion – Norm Allen
  21. Portal into the Light of Truth: The First Book of Wicca for African Americans and All Seekers – Jeanine de Oya
  22. Metu Netter Volumes 1 and 2 – Ra Un Neffer Amen
  23. Sacred Woman:  A Guide to Healing the Feminine Body, Mind, and Spirit – Queen Afua
  24. Master Book of Candle Burning – Henry Gamache
  25. Black Magic – Yvonne Chireau
  26. Rootwork: Using the Folk Magick of Black America for Love, Money and Success – Tayannah Lee McQuillar
  27. Jambalaya – Luisah Teish
  28. Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica – Zora Neal Hurston

Related posts:

Racial Justice Activism in the #Occupy Movement

At our Communicating for Justice workshop series in February, we learned and discussed ways strategic communications can be used in social justice movements, including movements that embrace a racial justice agenda. #Occupy was one of the case studies we examined closely. How is the movement been framed and messaged? How do we work within the mainstream media agenda and how do we engage communications methods outside of those narrow confines? To continue the conversation outside of the workshop, we wanted to share some additional media we found on how racial justice movements intersect with #Occupy.

Recently, Colorlines.com hit the streets to hear from people of color active in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  “Participants in OWS’s People of Color Working Group and the Occupy the Hood movement discuss what they saw as OWS’s initial “post-racial” attitude toward the economic crisis and how white privilege may have impacted the movement’s development and sustainability.”

Related Links via Colorlines.com:

Recommended Reading: Asian American Identity and Activism

The Asian American diaspora is uniquely diverse. While the Jeremy Lin phenomenon has sparked mainstream media attention and created popular discussion around Asian American identity, there are still many unheard voices and perspectives. Jay Caspian Kang writes, “We still haven’t figured out how to talk about Asian Americans.”

The Asian American community struggles to navigate and make visible a racial identity society has trapped between white and black. Books by Asian American scholars and activists discuss how the community can transcend awareness and move towards social action. The books below connect culture and politics and share ways that the Asian American community stand in solidarity with other communities of color.

Continue reading