When a member of the Black Poet Society saw a group of young men using chalk to write “Build a wall” in front of the Spartan Statue, agribusiness major Alondra Alvizo felt she had to do something.
“The Black Poet Society is a group of activists that use our words to defend our community,” said Alvizo. “That’s what we try to do.”
Alvizo’s mother did not support the idea. The MSU junior attends the university on a full-ride scholarship; her mother feared activism could cost her scholarship money.
Alvizo told her story during the Latinx Students in Need of Solidarity Town Hall, hosted by student organization Culturas de las Razas Unidas on Oct. 13.
Mauricio Hernandez, a senior at MSU, gives students at the Latinx Students in Need of Solidarity Town Hall advice in both English and Spanish.
Maisie Rodriguez, the organization’s treasurer, explained the town hall was planned after a member asked a recruiter at James Madison College what it was doing to attract students of color. Rather than answer the question, Rodriguez said, the JMC representative asked the member what the organization was doing to bring students of color to the college.
According to the event’s Facebook page, the town hall was planned for students to discuss the “lack of representation on campus and microaggressions that occur against the community.”
Throughout the two-hour event, students, staff and alumni told their stories to hundreds packed into Erickson Hall Kiva.
MSU alumni and journalism major Francisco Velazquez told a story of a literature class he took at the university. After turning in an essay for the class, he said, the professor accused Velazquez of plagiarism and quizzed him on the definitions of various words used in the essay. Velazquez said that ultimately the professor was unable to prove plagiarism, but believed the professor’s accusations were founded on his ethnicity.
Kinesiology student Angel Trevino told a story of how a police officer had reacted after pulling the student over.
“Oh, you speak English,” the officer said, letting Trevino drive away without revealing a reason for the stop.
“Those types of microaggressions, you feel them,” said mathematics major Pablo Lopez. “They sting.”
Professor Xhercis Méndez, a philosophy professor at MSU, described an experience when a colleague saw her carrying a broom and asked if she was moonlighting as a janitor.
“Your experience is our experience,” said Méndez, reading a letter written by MSU staff that identify as Latinx. “We promise to continue fighting alongside you.”
ASMSU had a presence at the town hall, as well. After the organization invited Donald Trump to speak on campus, Latinx students protested.
One ASMSU member sent demeaning comments through Twitter aimed at the protestors. Cassandra Shavrnoch, the organization’s vice president for academic affairs, said she would do her best to ensure ASMSU addresses the students’ concerns.
“I can’t promise to make it right, but I’m there for you,” Shavrnoch said.