Writing, Fighting, and Striving for Justice

There are few things more electrifying than sitting in on a live poetry reading. One would think that sharing poetry in an online format would dull the experience, but that was not the case on the evening of October 14th, as Siena’s Latinx Student Association and the Damietta Cross-Cultural Center extended a virtual welcome to the Adios America team, Melania-Luisa Marte and Angélica Maria Aguilera.

The poetry duo hosted events for two nights in a row, each of them encouraging reflection and creativity. On Wednesday evening, the duo shared a powerful poetry reading performance and on Thursday evening, they organized an interactive poetry workshop for students and professors alike.

Through the medium of poetry, Angélica Maria and Melania-Luisa addressed themes of allyship, racial justice, microaggressions, the exoticization of women, and the necessity of decolonizing literature. One poem that was especially powerful had to do with rethinking the power and influence that modern literature has granted William Shakespeare. One of Angélica Maria Aguilera’s iconic lines was, “Methinks it’s time to flip the script, Shakespeare”. Looking at canonical literature through this lens, it is clear to see that there is a lack of representation in the work that is deemed “classic”. These works continue to be required readings for many literature and writing courses however, with all due respect, they don’t hold a candle to topics that are important to explore and discuss in the year 2020.

The poetry duo, Melania-Luisa Marte (Left) and Angélica Maria Aguilera (Right) are currently on a performance tour entitled “Adios America” on which they share poetry and insight into the work of intersectional feminism, anti-racism, and advocacy for justice. Photo courtesy of themujerista.com.

During Thursday night’s event, Angélica Maria and Melania-Luisa addressed topics including common microaggressions, how rest is a form of resistance, and guided their virtual audience through a series of writing prompts centering around identity. Participants started a conversation about beauty politics, anti-racism work both on and off campus, exotification, racialization, and their personal experiences either witnessing or receiving microaggressions in their lives. 

Another powerful moment of the evening came through a small meditation, where Melania-Luisa invited those tuned in on Zoom to visualize their happy place and write down where they found it, what was in it, what they felt, what they saw etc. The Poet then encouraged viewers to think of how one’s community would navigate this space. Is there room for collectivity? Is there visibility and celebration of our individuality and differences? These thinking points resonated with the audience, who engaged in discussion following this reflection activity. 

While asking essential questions regarding anti-racism work both inside and outside one’s immediate locality, Angélica Maria and Melania-Luisa stressed the importance of community and collectivity in this work. Melania-Luisa stating that, “We need community. Our ancestors survived through their connections to community and collectivity”. As students seeking to carry forward the Siena’s intentions of diversity, optimism, respect and service, these words could not be more crucial. There is power in numbers; Siena Saints host the intention, dedication, and commitment to service that is necessary to enact sustainable change.

In times as unprecedented as these, the Siena Community is stronger together. We must respect, serve, care, and share compassion for those around us now and always – it’s ours to do along the road to restorative justice and peace for all.

Even in the Face of a Global Pandemic, the FCSA Finds a Way to Spread Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Photo courtesy of the Siena College Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy.

Each year, Judy Doughterty leads the team at the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy in collecting gifts and donations for their annual Giving Tree event. Typically, there is a tree stationed in popular spots on campus including the chapel, the atrium of the Sarazen Student Union, and the Foy Hall lobby. 

Due to campus-wide COVID restrictions, hosting this program in the traditional format is not possible, so Judy and her team got to work. 

It only took a matter of weeks for Judy’s virtual Christmas tree vision to come to life with the help of her student officers. She spent ample time fine-tuning the details of the virtual atmosphere and wanted to ensure that it was accessible to all that wish to participate.

The FCSA’s strong tradition in Franciscan Service and Advocacy has fostered a sense of community both on and off campus. The team in the Mission Office has sought out ways to continue creating connections during a time where we’re encouraged to stay distant from one another.

While the Giving Tree programming looks a bit different this year, the sentiment is just as genuine and now has the capacity to pull from a larger group of donors. Not even a pandemic can keep Judy and her team from spreading tidings of comfort and joy during the holiday season!

Visit the Virtual Giving Tree here: https://dailydigest.siena.edu/students/2020/10/11/its-beginning-to-look-a-lot-like-christmas-2/