AMHERST, MA – It was apparent to the public that an overcast day at the University of Massachusetts Amherst would not stop organizers and allies of the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy from marching to the Whitmore administration building, who were advocating against student debt.
The Center for Education Policy & Advocacy, also known as CEPA, has been an agency on campus since 2007, “building grassroots power movements to expand the political consciousness of the campus.”
On Friday, April 12, CEPA as well as their student allies, marched to Whitmore from Goodell lawn. The organizers discussed with the 50 person crowd that they were there to address the UMass Amherst student debt crisis. “The university can’t drown out our voices any longer,” CEPA education & training coordinator Emma Kinney said, stirring up the audience.
On Tuesday Mar. 20, the Stonewall Center of the University of Massachusetts Amherst hosted a LGBTQIA+ Art Showcase and Open Mic night. Held in Bartlett Hall, the event was broken up into two parts.
The night started off with snacks and a gallery walk. The gallery featured over 15 artists with art pieces ranging from paintings, embroidery, photography, knitting, and more. People were able to walk through and admire the work that artists created as a rotation of chill music, like Solange’s latest album When I Get Home, played in the background.
AMHERST – On Thursday, Mar. 7, the University of Massachusetts Amherst celebrated women around the world with an “International Women’s Day Celebration.” The event, coordinated by the Center for Women & Community, was held in New Africa House, with special food, speakers, and performances from 4 to 6 p.m.
“It’s empowerment in a positive sense,” said Sarah Danforth, educator advocate for CWC, when discussing how the event brings connections between women through networking. She discussed that she’s attended the event to have first hand “meaningful work [to be] connected on this campus.”
Open to all, the event hosted around 60 persons, including women of all ethnicities, a few men, and even children – most took turns coloring in pictures of their favorite inspirational women, such as Frida Kahlo.
On Friday, Mar. 1, the Latinx American Cultural Center hosted graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez for a talk about La Borinqueña, a comic book series he created that features one of the few Afro-Latina superheroes.
La Borinqueña stars Marisol Rios De La Luz, a Nuyorican (New York-born Puerto Rican) and Columbia University student who studies abroad for a semester at the University of Puerto Rico. While there, she explores the caves on the island and finds five crystals, all of which give La Luz individual powers such as superhuman strength, the power of flight, and control of the storms. With her newfound powers, La Luz adopts the superhero name La Borinquena, inspired by Puerto Rico’s national anthem, and works alongside the community to create social change.
As students walked into the LACC, they were greeted with a Puerto Rican flag and the alluring smell of Puerto Rican food prior to the talk. Later during his speech, Miranda-Rodriguez talked about the reasoning for hanging up the flag and serving food was to bring a home feeling to the event.
Outside of the Greater Boston area or gateways cities, such as Springfield or Pittsfield, few may expect to find large numbers of black people in Massachusetts. It’s surprising, then, to hear that Florence, Mass., a village tucked in the northwest corner of the city of Northampton, had 10 percent black residents in 1850, higher than major hubs like New Bedford and Boston.
On Wednesday, Feb. 20, in light of Black History Month and in partnership with the David Ruggles Center for History and Education, the Malcolm X Cultural Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst hosted a two-part event on the impact of slavery in the Pioneer Valley.
Ruggles Center director Steve Scrimer was invited to speak at the MXCC, presenting the history of African Americans that arrived to Florence in the middle 19th century via the Underground Railroad, and quickly made the mill town their home and site of radical organizing.
The Indian Classical Arts Society at the University of Massachusetts Amherst performed “Sita Haran” at Bezanson Hall on Saturday, Feb. 23. The show was about retelling an epic story from the ancient Hindu text, Ramayana, about the abduction of Sita by the king of Lanka, Ravana.
The show was a compilation of acts performed in various Indian dance forms—Kathak, Odissi and Bharatanatyam—and music forms that were adapted from different parts of North and South India. The dancers were accompanied by live musicians from UMass Amherst and the Greater Boston area.
Ilina Shah, president of the Indian Classical Arts Society, said, “Sita Haran was a perfect story for this show because it was a short enough excerpt from the Hindu epic Ramayana which has been interpreted by dancers from many Indian classical dance and music forms. Each dancer and musician could develop their own unique take on the character they were playing.”
All of the artists have been trained in their music and dance styles for over five years. The acts that were performed through the evening were self-choreographed and took inspiration from set compositions that have been established in these varied dance forms. The use of live music and different facial expressions helped bring out the story and showed the creativity the artists used to execute the story. Sita Haran represented the diversity and relevance of mythology this is prevalent in Indian society.
On Wednesday Feb. 20, five Latinx students sat at a table in the Latinx American Cultural Center admiring how fast El Alfa rapped in Spanish in his music video “Mi Mami” at the first ¿Cómo se Dice? How Do You Say it? event of the semester.
“I want to speak Spanish like him,” Yanni Cabrera, English major, said as she and the four other attendees watched the video.
Held every spring semester, ¿Cómo se Dice? How Do You Say it? is a biweekly event hosted by the LACC to give a space for Latinx students and all people to come speak in Spanish. No matter what skill level of Spanish you are at, the doors are open for you.
On Friday, Feb. 22, the Black Student Union and the University of Massachusetts Amherst chapter of the NAACP gave students of color a space to celebrate Black art. The event, “Celebration of Black Art” was held in the New Africa House Theatre from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“It’s a chance to have people celebrate themselves,” said Marquise Laforest, president of BSU.
At this event, students of color had the opportunity to share their art — whether through poetry, rap lyrics, or singing.
Juana Valdes, printmaking professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, acknowledges that students and faculty of color deserve a platform and a community that makes them comfortable and creates a space where students can get together to share ideas and beliefs.
“Often times, there is not enough importance put to these situations and these issues are not addressed as quickly as they need to be addressed,” Valdes said.
Valdes recalls gravitating towards making art as a junior in high school, when she was put in various creative classes. She now sees it as an opportunity to express her perception of the world.
“As a woman, as a woman of color and as an immigrant, I feel that I’m at an intersection of a lot of discriminations and push-backs of my ideas and beliefs, so I have decided to use my work as a vehicle to communicate what it’s likes to be in my position.”
Timmy Sullivan may fit the same physical appearance as almost all of our past U.S. presidents (by physical appearance I mean the fact that he is clearly a white male), but through one single interaction with him I was able to realize his true dedication to advocating for racial justice, even on a local scale.
This Valentine’s day, the University of Massachusetts Amherst Fine Arts Center was welcome to a special performance by New Orleans trumpeter and composer Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and his quintet.
Performing in the Bowker Auditorium, Adjuah’s Feb. 14 concert came at the end of a week-long tour across the Pioneer Valley through the Billy Taylor Endowment for Jazz Residencies, teaching and working with local high school and Five College students in masterclass workshops and one-on-one student critiques.
Community members, faculty and students were in attendance for a talk by culinary historian and memoirist Michael W. Twitty. The talk, held Wednesday evening in the Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall, was based off of Twitty’s 2017 personal memoir, “The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South.”
For well over a decade, Twitty has worked with living history museums to recreate the cooking practices of black people, dating back to the Transatlantic slave trade. What began as his love of culinary history and cooking grew into a desire to learn and teach others the ways enslaved people raised, harvested and cultivated their crops during the 18th and 19th century.
University of Massachusetts Amherst faculty, students and community members were in full attendance Sunday evening for a special film screening of If Beale Street Could Talk, hosted by the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies in partnership with local movie theater Amherst Cinema.
Afro-American Studies department chair Stephanie Shonekan introduced the evening’s screening, anticipating that Barry Jenkins’s (director of Moonlight and Medicine for Melancholy) film adaptation of the 1974 novel by James Baldwin would allow present-day audiences to “pause and think about what messages [Baldwin] is still sending us decades later.”
On Tuesday Feb. 5, University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Office of Equity and Inclusion presented “Understanding the Forces that Drive Us Apart: A Symposium on Polarization” as an daylong event allowing participants “to understand the history and dynamics of social polarization.”
The symposium, hosted in the Campus Center Auditorium, featured a conversation between Jelani Cobb, New Yorker staff writer and Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at Columbia University, and UMass Associate Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Enobong (Anna) Branch discussing freedom of speech on college campuses.
On a particularly cold Thursday morning, a group of University Of Massachusetts student organizers bared frigid temperatures as they waited to enter the Old Chapel. The group, comprised of members from the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy, were in attendance for the Dec. 13 meeting of the UMass Board of Trustees, planning to push the board members to address rising tuition and mandatory fees that have priced out university students.
The Board of Trustees meeting began with a call to order by chairman Robert Manning, who quickly highlighted UMass Amherst as an “anomaly” compared to other universities in the “industry of higher education”. Nationally, he cited a declining trend in enrollment and graduation rates that could lead several private and public colleges to “go out of business” within the next five years.
A usual day around one in the afternoon at the University of Massachusetts Amherst consists of students in class, eating in the dining halls, studying at the library, or working out at the recreation center. On Thursday Dec. 6, it was different than the norm. About 200 people marched together to “denounce the acts of hate and cowardice plaguing our campus in recent months”, such as written threats and racial profiling.
In the past three months, UMass Amherst has experienced various racist incidents. A Whitmore employee had campus police called on him, the Melville residence hall had three racially targeted issues in a row and white supremacy flyers were found around campus. While this is not the first time these incidents have happened on the campus, their frequency over the fall semester has made it a deep concern for the UMass community.
On Wednesday, Nov. 28, students and faculty from the University of Massachusetts Amherst joined the International Socialist Organization (ISO) at 6:30 p.m. in the Campus Center to hear a firsthand account of the struggles of the migrant caravan and how people can show solidarity and support.
The firsthand account came from Fermin Valle, a queer South American activist, an ISO member and a doctoral student in higher education at UMass.
Valle discussed his experience traveling down to Mexico City, where he met some of the migrants, asylum seekers and people who are a part of the caravan.