Standing up at GVSU

Students to discuss activism experiences at panel event

By Drew Schertzer | 2/8/17 9:41pm

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GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Grand Valley's NAACP chapter holds a campus wide demonstration in protest of police brutality Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in Allendale.

by Kevin Sielaff / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Student activism has existed as a voice for the voiceless for years at Grand Valley State University. In keeping with this long-standing tradition, the GVSU Kutsche Office of Local History (KOLH) will hold an event where people can learn about the past and present works of activism by undergraduate and graduate students since the university’s beginning.

The panel event, “Contemporary Examples of Activism: Student Perspectives,” will be held Thursday, Feb. 9, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. at the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons Multipurpose Room.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Cariese Cooks holds a Black Lives Matter sign as protestors gather around the clock tower. Grand Valley's NAACP chapter holds a campus wide demonstration in protest of police brutality Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Demonstrators gather within the Kirkhof Center for ten minutes of silence. Grand Valley's NAACP chapter holds a campus wide demonstration in protest of police brutality Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Ezra Smith participates in the protest. Grand Valley's NAACP chapter holds a campus wide demonstration in protest of police brutality Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in Allendale.

Kimberly McKee, the director of the KOLH, wants attendees to realize the importance of student activism.

“We must realize the impact activism has in creating change,” McKee said. “It’s also really important to recognize that student activism isn’t new here. It’s been going on for years.”

Change and activism go hand in hand. For years, many GVSU students have found a cause they’re passionate about and have stood up for what they believe to be right. Students often gather to discuss what needs to be changed in their communities and how to go about making those changes.

One GVSU student and activist, Natalia Blanco, believes students should always fight for what they believe in.

“It starts with an idea and good intentions,” Blanco said. “All it takes is one little spark, and from that, the greater good can be helped.”

The panel event will encompass the roots of contemporary examples of activism at GVSU. McKee thinks activism is part of the experience for students committed to social justice. The hope, McKee explained, is the event’s retracing of early activism on campus to today’s engagement will broaden events happening in the U.S. currently.

At the event, there will be a group of panelists discussing what they define as activism, how they are inspired to do their work and how activism can affect students. Louis Moore, an associate history professor and the coordinator for African/African-American studies at GVSU, will speak at the event, along with GVSU students Blanco, Joe Cadreau, Andrew Collier, Cariese Cooks, DeAndreah Hollowell and Samantha Gann. The students’ educational backgrounds vary, from women, gender and sexuality studies to Native American studies.

Both McKee and Blanco urge students to get involved and motivated in activism. McKee said by getting inspired and involving themselves, students will have their experiences shaped positively. She also said the panelists will be able to show the importance of student activism and its relevance in today’s political climate.

Activism can range from boycotts to protests to volunteer work and has existed at GVSU from its earliest days. Blanco shared her opinion on what students should do if they feel something isn’t right.

“I think it’s our obligation to fight unjust laws,” Blanco said. “It’s too much of a second nature for people to sit by and watch things happen.”

If students wish to get involved in social activism on campus, McKee suggests emailing the KOLH. Blanco added that students can also reach out to the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, the Women’s Center or the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

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