Last Friday, Cross Campus reverberated with the cheers of hundreds of students mobilizing in a call for intersectional solidarity.
Last Friday, a moving demonstration of student power and unification cemented a historical milestone for years to come.
Last Friday, Unite Yale took place – a rally organized to affirm the tangible connections between the ongoing struggles for cultural center renovations, fossil fuel divestment, mental health policy reform, and the elimination of the student income contribution.
At the rally, marginalized voices of the student body were uplifted in a way that can only be described as unparalleled: folks involved with each movement courageously shared their personal stories and spoke of the ways in which our experiences with administrative negligence overlapped.
“Us coming together is not just about winning our campaigns more easily and building a big movement,” Lex Barlowe ’17 declared in the closing statement she gave at the rally. “But it is also about who we are, the complexities of our identities, and honoring ourselves in our struggles for justice.”
Such a premise seems unusual upon first glance. After all, how could all of these issues possibly be related?
I am a low-income Asian student on financial aid, and am working an increasing number of jobs to remain financially independent. As a result of the student income contribution, I live in fear that I will ultimately be unable to pay for my education. If this financial burden persists, I will either have to take out loans – something that Yale guaranteed would not happen, withdraw from Yale, or sacrifice everything that I am passionate about in order to make time for more work hours.
Most of what I am currently involved with at Yale is related with the Asian and Pacific American community: a community which is not only housed in a center that is physically dangerous to be inside of, but is also denied the academic opportunity to explore a discipline that encompasses our specific and diverse experiences as colonized bodies, as resistant bodies – as people who endure and create, despite our oppression.
To be invalidated in this way can prove psychologically damaging: after all, this is not the first time Asian and Pacific American students, alongside all students of color, have been subtly or explicitly told that our spaces mean little. Throughout all this, working-class people who look like me, immigrants and refugees who fled war-torn countries, are ghettoized into neighborhoods near hazardous waste facilities, exposed to dangerous air pollution and poisoned by toxins as a result.
Low-income students deserve the loan-free education we were promised. Students of color deserve better-resourced cultural centers to serve as a base for both our designated community as well as the broader Yale student body. Everyone deserves a mental health system that is fundamentally accessible and doesn’t make us question our own vulnerability, humanity, and needs. Everyone deserves a world that is not being exploited and destroyed by the fossil fuel industry for profit, a phenomenon that most detrimentally affects indigenous populations and poor communities of color – and many of us at Yale are members of these communities that are most devastated by climate change. Here, we arrive full circle.
Audre Lorde was fittingly quoted at the rally: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.”
At Unite Yale, students joined hands not just in our shared indignation as a result of our demands remaining unaddressed, but also in our collective belief that Yale can do better. Our predecessors fought for the implementation of centers for all marginalized folks on campus, for divestment from South African apartheid and the prison-industrial complex, for the integration of an ethnic studies program – and they all won.
There is no reason to believe we cannot win too. Unite Yale, as an ongoing coalition of students fighting for justice, represents the beginning of a student body moving forward, together as one.
And they can’t stop us now.
by Yuni Chang