Photo by Lucy Wimmer
By Lucy Wimmer
On March 29, the Latinx group, lead by Nora Viñas (C’17), held a workshop to discuss allyship in the Latinx community. This was the first time Latinx was opened to allies. It created a space for students and faculty to talk and collaborate with people they normally would not talk to about topics not usually discussed. The conversation happened in small groups of students and faculty, facilitated by members of Latinx, and included topics such as what people want from an ally and how allies can move forward.
On the topic of what makes a good ally, Viñas explained, “A good ally … they listen. They listen, they listen, they listen, they listen. I can’t stress that enough. They show up. I think listening and showing up is 70 percent of your job. And the rest is using their privilege and their power and their influence to help achieve your goals and I think every ally I have had has done those things for me, but they’ve also empowered me and pushed me.”
Attendees outside of the Latinx community also shared their perspectives on allyship. “This isn’t a movement that is for me and recognizing the goal in that. Making sure that as an ally, you’re not co-opting the movement. As a white person, I should not be at the front lines, I can use my privilege to invite certain people to events and to encourage faculty to be involved but it’s not my role to be discussing what needs to change throughout the movement or to be the face of it,” Anna Sumner Noonan (C’17) said.
In Alexander Brotherton’s (C’20) view, “I feel like [an ally is] someone who is open minded to all beliefs, and not just what someone believes, but why they believe it. I think that’s one of the most important things an ally can do. Someone who is open to all beliefs, not just the ones they believe in.”
Along with students, faculty and staff attended the meeting. The relationship between students and faculty is vital in the creation and fostering of initiatives that work.
“The best example I can offer is Dean Spurlock. She’s been my right hand, my left hand, my eyes and ears, everything, for the mentor program. She built one like it at another school for first generation students and I go to her and I’m ready to collaborate,” said Viñas in regards to the way staff and students can collaborate effectively. “I want her wisdom but she also lets me have autonomy. She’s like the backbone. And that’s how you collaborate. It’s student-led with administrator support.”
In addition to this workshop, Viñas and Latinx work on other initiatives, such as the mentorship program and language initiatives. “The day after the election, I was just so sad and then I realized how much mentoring had impacted me here,” Viñas said. “We’re planning on launching for next academic year. You’re supposed to meet with your mentor over the phone or in person at least twice a month. We’ll try it out this year with Latinx students, and then ideally our second year and third year, and however long we can sustain this, will be first-generation students.”
Latinx works to bridge the language barrier by translating content from the website and brochures into Spanish. The admissions office will hold a Spanish webinar to allow parents to ask questions in a space they are comfortable in, and the Commencement bulletin will be translated into Spanish in addition to a Spanish commencement ceremony the Saturday before graduation.
“Graduation is a big deal and I know my name’s gonna be on the diploma, but I could not have done that without my parents. That’s an achievement for both my parents and I, and I want them to feel comfortable to be in a space to celebrate that with me,” Viñas said.
The ally workshop brought people from different racial backgrounds together and allowed people to discuss and learn from each other moving forward.
“Students, this is our home. Stop complaining, get off facebook and do something about it. If you want to change something and you have a big idea, don’t get stuck on the big idea, start somewhere and it will unfold how it needs to unfold,” Viñas encouraged.