By Christina Acevedo
“InSight Magazine,” a student publication with a focus on poverty in Southern California, debuted last week from April 24 to 26.
To celebrate the launch of the magazine, which was founded by literary journalism and international studies major Aditi Mayer, events were held throughout the week. Among these were a gallery reception, homelessness panel, Q&A with founders Justino Mora as well as Ivan Ceja from UndocuMedia and an art and activism workshop.
While the reception and panel marked the magazine’s publication, the Q&A centered around how UndocuMedia uses social media to inform others about subjects impacting undocumented people and to promote intersectionality. The workshop, led by Jenny Doh ‘91, was based around the connection that activism and art have to one another.
“[The reception and panel] event was very insightful,” student Cristina Sanchez said. “I came in without any expectations and I left inspired with empathy, power, and a voice with the potential to actually make changes in society.”
Although connected to the Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation, the magazine’s publication was largely undertaken by students. Its launch was initiated on Tuesday, April 24 in the Viewpoint Gallery, where pictures and art made by people who the magazine worked with as well as quotes from the magazine were displayed on the walls. Copies of the magazine were distributed, a short video explaining the vision behind it was shown and a panel discussing homelessness followed afterwards.
As part of the magazine’s mission, Mayer emphasized the importance of increasing awareness and helping readers understand the origins as well as complexity of poverty.
Included in the panel were Kaleb Havens from L.A. Catholic Worker, activist Patrick Hogan, social worker Sheena Innocente and attorneys Mohammed Aly as well as Brooke Wietzman.
Some of the panelists, such as Innocente and Hogan, talked about their personal experiences with poverty and homelessness. Innocente explained how her family resorted to illegal actions in order to support themselves while Hogan drew on his realization that a disconnect exists within the homeless population as well as outside it.
Havens, on the other hand, explained his choice to live as a homeless person during Lent in order to better understand their predicament. According to Havens, during this time he witnessed hit-and-runs as well as unfair arrests.
A common theme throughout the panel was the criminalization of the homeless population, misconceptions about their employment status, a refusal to help improve their situation and continued mistreatment by public officials.
Innocente spoke about how many homeless people have jobs and find themselves still struggling to make ends meet. Aly elaborated on the stigma that homeless individuals are dangerous and refuse services. A few of these notions have resurfaced with the recent objections to creating shelters in Huntington Beach, Irvine and Laguna Niguel.
“These ideas came from the city officials,” Aly explained with regards to criminal accusations.
Hogan took these topics further by expressing how regardless of their validity, convictions should not be used to justify whether someone receives assistance or not.
“We’re all just human beings,” he said.
The panelists also discussed how shelters can be problematic and why more efforts should be made to create additional transitional as well as affordable housing. Some of the issues they cited were a lack of privacy and strict rules that hinder people staying at the shelter from obtaining employment or others from going to the shelter altogether.
To conclude the panel, the speakers answered questions from the audience and gave their input on what people can do. Suggestions included getting involved at UCI by addressing the issue of student homelessness, spreading knowledge and information about homelessness, showing empathy towards the homeless community and getting others to participate in service as well.
“This event was one of the many things that I have been able to go to that has made me appreciate going to UCI,” student Evelyn Mendoza said. “I was able to listen to many people’s different perspectives on an issue that plagues many cities such as Irvine. These are some of the conversations that are needed in order for us to create change.”