The event gave people a safe place to voice their feelings and offered a platform to share thoughts on the election, the future, and how to best nurture social rights and protect the environment moving forward.
A teach-in was organized last Friday at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo in response to the recent presidential election.
The event was organized by a group of university professors, students, and an academic counselor. The idea behind the event was to give people a safe place to voice their feelings and offer a platform to share thoughts on the election, the future, and how to best nurture social rights and protect the environment moving forward.
Marina Karides, associate professor of sociology, was one of the organizers and the first speaker to address the many students, administrators, academics, and community members who had gathered in Campus Center.
“This is a solution oriented event,” Karides explains. She invited those who were interested in speaking to take turns addressing the audience and sharing their thoughts.
Jeanne Batallones is an academic counselor with the Student Services Center at UH Hilo. She was the second speaker and event organizer to stand before the crowd and offer her support, saying, “This space is for healing and for student voices to be heard. It’s not about Democrat or Republican. It’s about human rights and human values that are rooted in love, justice and unity.”
The UH Hilo campus has gained national renown for the vast diversity it encompasses and has, in past years, been recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the United States. A new LGBTQ+ Center was established this year.
Batallones introduced Marguerite Stith, who also stood to speak. Stith is a sociology student who helped with event organization as well. Other organizers present were Celia Bardwell-Jones, an associate professor of philosophy and the chair of the gender and women’s studies program, and Charmaine Higa-McMillan, associate professor of psychology. Also attending was Ashley Magallanes.
Bardwell-Jones sat with the crowd and listened to the different speakers, then rose to say, “We had to do something on-campus. We believe that these ideas need to be intellectually cultivated: education, critical thinking, and active democratic participation. This is where it should start. It should start here at the UH Hilo campus. This is just the beginning. This is one of many events that we will be organizing.”
Other events are already being planned around campus and out in the local community. One of the student speakers, Emma Gerish, urged those in attendance to join-in and be a part of a peaceful protest march happening on Nov. 29, that is set to start on the sidewalk in front of the Merryl-Lynch building in Hilo. No start time was specified.
A Women’s March in Hilo is also being organized for Jan. 21, 2017, the day after the presidential inauguration in Washington, DC. This march is a national event with the main gathering in DC; marches will be happening across the country in every state. The official mission statement begins, “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
A sign-up sheet for the Hilo Women’s March was passed around, and student Mary Fem Urena added her name to the list. Fem Urena is studying environmental science at UH Hilo and says, “We need a community of love, activism and acceptance of the people around us in order to move as a country and fight the biggest threat to humanity, climate change.”
The National Science Foundation recently released $1 million to continue climate change research at UH Hilo.
Kathryn Besio graduated from UH Mānoa and is a geography professor who has been at UH Hilo for 12 years. She also serves as faculty for gender and women’s studies program. As she stood and spoke to the people who were at the teach-in, she put on a baseball cap that had the word feminist printed on the brim.
Besio offered these words: “Participation is going to be incredibly important in the years and months ahead. After the [presidential] election, students told me they felt gutted, afraid about their futures. They were very despondent. But we see connections between environmental and civil rights activists. We need to keep pushing forward and looking for these connections.”
About the author of this story: Lara Hughes (senior, business administration) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.
About the photographer: Bob Douglas is a local artist, photographer, and student who volunteers his photography skills to the Office of the Chancellor and UH Hilo Stories.
-UH Hilo Stories.