Month: November 2018

Eyewitness Account: Solidarity with the Migrant Caravan

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By Sifa Kasongo

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.

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Domestic Workers Building Dignity and Power, Past and Present

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By Brie Bristol

On Thursday, Nov. 1, the Feinberg Series at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst presented “Domestic Workers Building Dignity and Power, Past and Present”.

The academics on the panel were Linda Burnham, senior advisor at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA); Monique Tú Nguyen, executive director of the Matahari Women Workers Center, and Jennifer Guglielmo, history professor at Smith College.

The focus of the panel was to shine a light on the importance of protecting domestic workers, who are mostly female, to a full multicultural audience of at least 70 people. The panel was moderated by Diana Sierra Becerra, followed by a brief overview of each panelist’ work and how it pertains to domestic workers, and then a “coffee-talk” forum of questions and answers.

It was defined by the women that domestic workers are mostly “poor women of color” who receive unfair wages, no sick days, no retirement, and no overtime. Linda Burnham described domestic workers’ conditions as the slavery of the present.

Burnham discussed that through the NDWA, the domestic workers “Bill of Rights” was drafted in order to create a floor of how to improve conditions today focusing on overtime rights and rights to form a union. The “Bill of Rights” was ratified in 2010 in New York during a Matahari rally, as an act of building a conversation about the importance of protections for domestic workers.

Matahari or Matahari Women Workers’ Center is an organization formed in Boston where, as Becerra describes, “women of color, immigrant women, and families come together as sisters, workers, and survivors to make improvements in ourselves and society and work towards justice and human rights”.

Through Matahari, Monique Nguyen said that members can build a conversation about facts that all people should be knowledgeable about concerning domestic workers; this conversation has successfully been built through the creation of booklets explaining the “Top Ten Things You need to know about Domestic Workers,” these pamphlets are available through Matahari members like Nguyen presenting information about workers rights.

Besides pamphlets, Burnham discussed that another way that domestic workers have been benefited by the domestic workers “Bill of Rights” is through an online platform called Alia, where domestic workers can receive employment benefits. The benefits given through the Alia software range from accident insurance, critical illness insurance, paid time off, and many others. Burnham further explained that through Alia, employers and employees can communicate through phone numbers and emails about accumulating credits that convert into Visa cards, insurance coverages, and benefit credits. It was explained by the panel that Alia is one way that domestic workers conditions are being improved today.

Another way that domestic workers conditions are being improved today is by the availability of working-class archives through funding from Matahari run by Jennifer Guglielmo. These archives have been made available online in order to use history to strengthen movements supporting for domestic workers. Guglielmo has made history accessible through a digital timeline of over 30 slides translated into Spanish and English focusing on minor workers history that was rooted in African American women’s history. She has devoted her work to these slides as an action to promote the movement focusing on domestic workers just like Burnham and Nguyen.

Overall the panel was very informative on a class of people who are our neighbors. It laid out the benefits that domestic workers need, and the ways that we – as a society – can help them achieve the rights that all workers have. You can listen to the audio version of the panel here.

“Stand United, Fight Hate” Lecturer Defines What It Means To Be Anti-Racist

By Ethan Bakuli, Brie Bristol, and Cynthia Ntinunu

On Wednesday night, November 7, over 500 people gathered in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Fine Arts Center Concert Hall for a talk by New York Times best-selling author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. His lecture, titled “How to Be An AntiRacist” was part of the inaugural UMass “Stand United, Fight Hate” series. The title of Kendi’s lecture is based off the name of his forthcoming book, while the talk itself covered the topics to be explored in his second novel, Stamped From the Beginning: A Definitive History Of Racist Ideas In America”.

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A Space that Students Need but Do Not Receive

By Lucia Solórzano

As a student of color at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, it’s never surprising to be asked: “what are you?” Full disclosure: I am half-Peruvian and half unknown Caucasian. Despite being an annoying question, I usually answer it because I can tell it’s well-intended or I’ll say something like “I am.. a person?” But in sophomore year, one random white guy walked up to me at a party and asked me that question. Internally rolling my eyes, I told him.

What he said next made me…very uncomfortable: “Wow, that’s so cool. White people are like a parasite to the earth and you being mixed is helping further the human race.”

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Power vs Powerlessness

By Isha Mahajan

As a senior in high school, I’d been working to complete an early decision application to New York University. Applying as a Political Science major, It was essential to have a recommendation from my Political Science teacher and after she’d agreed to write it, I had hoped that she would be responsible about it irrespective of the fact how much she disliked me because of my political opinions. She was also the chief advisor for the Model UN Society of which I’d been an active member and had held very large contributions with the work I had done for them.

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