Striving Towards Unity: Unity Celebration honors faculty, staff, students

At the Eighth Annual Unity Celebration, nearly 60 community members, faculty, staff and students came together in the LBCC Calapooia Fireside Room to honor efforts of building a more inclusive campus. The event was hosted by Javier Cervantes, director of the LBCC Department of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

“In 2009, Dana Anderson, Analee Fuentes, Robin Havenick, and Gary Westford started this event as a way to bring people together and to honor uniqueness, diversity, multiculturalism, togetherness and social justice,” said Cervantes.

The event included an awards ceremony, art, performances by members of LBCC’s Poetry Club, and a speech given by activist Erica Fuller of Corvallis, an organizer of the Women’s March in Portland on January 21. LBCC Culinary Arts students and Chef Andrew Wadlow catered the event with foods from different cultures around the world to signify unity.

Cervantes directed the audience’s attention to various pieces of artwork around the room.

“You have a quilt here that was done by our own Barbara Bessie, she designed that quilt out of flags we had in the Diversity Achievement Center… it’s one of the most interesting kind of examples of art that you can find on campus I think because it’s such a live tapestry of who exists here as our international students, english language learners, undocumented students and the like,” said Cervantes.

Members of the LBCC Poetry Club recited emotional poems detailing experiences and desires for a more unified and equitable society.

Among the poems was “1929” by Thania Mendez. The poem was about mass deportations in the U.S. in 1929 following the Mexican Repatriation Act when Americans of Mexican descent were scapegoated for the Great Depression.

“There’s been such a focus on immigration and with my past, I come from a very predominantly white town, so ‘go back to Mexico’ was something that I did hear growing up and I did hear uttered to my parents. It was very frustrating when people tried telling me now in today’s age that that would never happen even though I was American,” said Mendez.

Mendez stated that she shared the poem about the Mexican Repatriation Act and modern parallels because she felt more people needed to know about the saddening history of the treatment of Mexican-Americans and the harmful effects, both past and present.

“I think the biggest message is to stop creating space between people… to unite as a country, not by race, …not to label people, and not to assume certain things about people, because I think that was the problem in the 1930’s and late 1920’s. I think people just assumed that these people weren’t capable and these people were the problem… it’s not us against them, we’re all in this together,” said Mendez.

Poetry Club member Samantha Guy performed a piece titled “Micro-aggression,” detailing discrimination she has experienced, concluding her poem with a definition of micro-aggression.

“Micro-aggression: A statement, action or incident regarded as indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority,” said Guy.

In addition to Mendez and Guy, Alyssa Campbell performed “For My People,” Ceph Poklemba performed “‘Til Death Do Us Part,” Christopher Mikkelson performed “I Got Lucky,” and Emma Spaulding performed “For Frederick Douglas.”

Fuller, a graduate student at OSU, delivered a powerful speech adapted from her speech at the Women’s March.

“I am always eager to be involved when it comes to educating… talking about diversity, equity and inclusion and unity. The Unity Celebration, this is exactly what that entails,” said Fuller. “Intersectional feminism is so important because it’s talking about the oppression that is happening within our culture.”

Awards were also handed out to members of the staff and faculty and student body to honor contributions to diversity at LBCC.

The Gary Westford Community Connection Award was given to the Pix Theatre in downtown Albany for a free showing of “Selma” in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“What it means to me in this community– this established community of people that are doing amazing things, I’m very humbled that we as a theater were even nominated and to win means a lot because we really care about our community and issues of social justice,“ said Denise Bigner, who owns Pix Theater with her husband Rod Bigner.

The Analee Fuentes Unity Award is given to one student, one faculty member, and one staff member to honor contributions to diversity, unity, and social justice on the LBCC campus. Robin Havenick won the faculty award, Victoria Fridley won the staff award, and Eric Slyter, Student Leadership Council President was the student recipient.

Story and Photo by K. Rambo

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