OCAT Student Speak!

“A Home Across the World: The soulfulness of Mexican culture” by Rebekah Long, Inclusive Campus Initiative Communications Assistant

April 13, 2022

On March 5-13, 2022, I had the opportunity to travel to Chiapas, Mexico with IEM (International Engagement in Mexico) to work with an agency called Angeles De Amour. This was one of the most life changing experiences because of the cultural humility I gained and the lives that touched mine so gently. Angeles De Amour is a non profit organization that was created to nurture the lives of individuals who experience intellectual disabilities. I had the opportunity to paint the walls of a dance classroom 12 feet up on a ladder, dance and sing with the students, and helped to cook meals that ranged from pizza, horchata, and rice with mayonnaise and corn in it. Even though it was hard work, it made me realize my passion for cross-cultural relationships, getting my hands dirty to create something beautiful, and the power within setting a goal and doing the necessary steps to see it to fruition.

I have recognized that Mexican culture is very soulful and full of spiritual appreciation. Mexican culture is very soulful because the energy is very welcoming and loving, you can feel it as you walk around. There are many apparent praises for God and it’s done in a way that makes you feel open to the praises too. Even though my understanding of the language is bare, the energy of those around me was very helpful and wanted me to learn their language too. It was evident that people in Chiapas recognized me as a human being over me being American or a Black woman with little Spanish ability. The most memorable moment was when the groundskeeper Miguel told me that this is my home and I can come back whenever I please. In only a week I gained a home across the world and I think it is because I was open to give love and receive it. I am forever grateful for the many gifts that Mexico has given me and I cannot wait to go back. If you are reading this, please see my words as a prompt to travel the world and open your heart, you never know the blessings that will rain down on you when you do.

“The Hate in this State” by Rebekah Long, OCAT Intern

November 6, 2019

When you step foot on Michigan State’s campus, you see pictures of smiling brown and black students across the residential halls and buildings followed by statements like “Our Differences Are Our Strength” or “Different Together”. But what isn’t broadcasted is the continuous racist attacks and inequalities that engrain the institution’s history and persist in our present.

On Friday, Oct. 18, nooses created from toilet paper were attached to the door of two black students in Bryan Hall. An official statement from the executive director of residence education and housing services, Ray Gassar rapidly emailed students deeming the two nooses to be simply a “halloween prank”. How is a noose that symbolizes the lynching of African American individuals a halloween prank? To make matters worse, he followed up the email referring that a noose is “African American History” disregarding that it was his ancestors doing the killing in the first place. He reflects the contempt and disregard that perpetuates the injustices and inequalities that engrain systems across the United States.

In a time of political and racial intensity, the words you say about hate matters, especially if you are in a position of power. The words you say can be a beacon of support, empathy, and compassion for the individuals targeted or a beacon of complacency, disregard, and acceptance of the action that took place which further promotes acceptance of the racist and hateful actions. You either are an ally to deconstruct the issues or apart of the problem that further promotes them and that seems to go over the heads of many of the individuals in charge at Michigan State University. You can not only condemn the behavior but hold the individuals accountable for the actions that make Michigan State University a hostile environment for all students.

The individual, whose identity has been protected, who was found guilty of crafting the nooses is not getting any repercussions to combat their actions but yet a slap on the wrist as many white perpetrators tend to get. Michigan State University does not even require faculty and administration to have any diversity or inclusion training, so how can it be expected for faculty to support or even understand the minority students they are supposed to serve and uplift? Students have been advocating for diversity and inclusion training since the late 80s and yet we are still advocating for the same measures. How can you promote diversity so openly but defy the strategies to implement it into practice? Implementing diversity practices can lead to a larger understanding of the community we live in, the people that encompass it, and how we can promote unity amongst everyone, regardless of their background. 

Black people and people of color are appropriated and assimilated for our culture but when it comes to acknowledging and deconstructing a system that is built on racism and white supremacy it is not taken into account. White people in power need to take accountability for the system in which was built by them to benefit them and disenfranchises people of color continually, but especially Black people. We have to use our voice to speak up for the inequalities we see on our campuses, communities, and the world we live in. We cannot remain complacent hoping for change or hoping for somebody to take action. We must be an activist for our own hopes and desires, utilizing the resources available to us to do it. Change is slow, always has been and always will be but we must use our voices and actions to enact it. (Want to learn more or get involved? Contact Rebekah at longreb4@msu.edu or attend OCAT’s REAL TALKS Wednesday during the academic year.)

Photos taken Rebekah Long during the Hannah Administration Building Student Protest (Oct. 30, 2019)

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