By: Deryn Harris and Christina Acevedo
UC Irvine’s Office of Campus Organizations & Volunteer Programs organized a Martin Luther King Jr. day of service at the Orange County Food Bank on Jan. 21.
To kick off UCI’s week-long Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium, a group of 150 UCI students, staff, faculty, retirees, and alumni volunteered at the Orange County Food Bank for UCI’s annual MLK Day event.
Assistant director of the Office of COVP, says, “It has been a tradition here at UCI since, I believe 2005, and it’s really an opportunity for the UCI community to come together and to celebrate MLK’s legacy and dedication to service…to help others within our community and outside our community.”
Volunteers helped package, organize, and box food that will be donated to families and individuals suffering from hunger and homelessness within Orange County. In an effort to create positive change in the lives of low-income populations the Orange County Food Bank collaborates with an estimated 400 local charities, soup kitchens, and community organizations to end hunger and malnutrition. Collectively providing more than 20 million pounds of food.
Before the main event, volunteers met up at the Anteater Community Resource Center (ACRC) for a small breakfast and a brief introduction. FRESH Basic Needs Hub coordinator, Andrea Gutierrez spoke here about the issue of hunger and food insecurity within Orange County.
Gutierrez said, “Until we end poverty and the social inequities, we will never end hunger and food insecurity, because they are symptoms of a larger social inequity…Sometimes it is not a lack of resources but a lack of political will that is preventing ending poverty.”
The FRESH Basic Needs Hub is a food pantry on UCI’s campus where students suffering from food insecurity can go to get free food items.
Andrea Gutierrez reminded volunteers of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about hunger and poverty. “Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will.”
Will See and DJ Shammy Dee Performance: 1/22
Will See, DJ Shammy, and Jessa Calderon shared performative pieces related to environmental justice at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts on Jan. 22.
Will See, an activist, and hip-hop artist, began the event by briefly explaining the work he’s involved in and showing a video that touched upon water accessibility issues, particularly for marginalized communities such as those of indigenous people. Much of See’s work is based in Detroit, and he tries to draw attention to the city’s different forms of environmental injustice, such as its experiences with excessive air pollution and water shutoffs.
Following his introduction, Jessa Calderon presented two of her own songs that touched upon the Spanish conquest of America as well as wrongs that have been and continue to be committed against native communities.
See then moved onto the topic of entertainment justice, discussing why the music he helps circulate is so important in the context of what the radio plays. According to See, the music on the radio does not depict Black people well, largely because of its emphasis on subjects such as violence.
Similarly, songs with activism and those that address a particular issue are often ignored and fail to receive radio play.
To conclude the night, See performed a few additional songs, some of which were focused on topics such as low-income areas’ need for fresh produce as well as the ethnic profiling that occurs when identifying suspected terrorists.
DJ Shammy Dee also provided entertainment that lightened the mood..
Discussion on Environmental Justice: 1/23
During his talk about environmental justice, See gave more insight into Detroit’s history and demographics as well as the personal journey that brought him to his current work.
After reciting his poem, “Respiration,” he spoke about the Flint water crisis and the influence that his younger brother had in his decision to start rapping.
In terms of his music, See expressed how he hopes his music can impact people and elaborated a bit upon his perceived importance of rapping about personal experiences.
When giving advice on how to effectively organize, See stressed the significance of addressing basic necessities like providing food during meetings along with other solutions, such as producing music that people will enjoy more than mainstream music. He also suggested crafting an image that impresses people and allows one to acquire publicity outside of the “activist circle.”
Once a Dreamer Pursuing a Dream: 1/23
The DREAM Center hosted a talk, “Once a Dreamer Pursuing a Dream”, at UC Irvine’s Cross-Cultural Center on Jan. 23. Guest speaker Mariella C. Zavala, a doctoral candidate in marketing at UC Irvine, spoke about her journey as an undocumented student in the US and how she gained DACA status to pursue her academic dreams.
Mariella shared her and her family’s story about leaving the violent and impoverished Reynosa, Mexico in search of a better life in the US. When she was nine years old, Mariella was brought to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas where she lived with her mother and stepfather. She recalls the financial and personal struggles faced during her childhood and teenage years, including the death of her stepfather when she was fourteen. She discovered in high school what it meant to be undocumented in the US. She couldn’t legally drive or receive government assistance.
In 2012, she applied for and received the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, giving her the ability to legally apply for federal financial aid and helping her further pursue her academic passions.
When Mariella began her doctoral program, she was the first DACA/undocumented Ph.D. student at the Paul Merage School of business at UCI. She will receive her Ph.D. in June 2020 and hopes to become an assistant professor of marketing at a university.
Mariella wants other DACA and undocumented college students to realize there are many helpful resources available including professors, friends, family, other DREAMERS, allies, and mentors.
Mariella reminded students like herself that, “When you begin to feel afraid or nervous about what’s ahead, remember what you’ve overcome is evidence of your strength.”
Spoken Word Workshop: 1/24
A workshop with See on how to use cultural strategies for environmental justice took place on Jan. 24.