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“Ubícate”: (Im)Migration Week at Whitman

Oscar Parrish, Staff Reporter

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This past week the club Borders as Method (BAM) hosted their annual event ‘Immigration Week’ from Nov. 5 to Nov. 10. Throughout the week, the club hosted various panels, workshops and teach-ins all focused on raising awareness about immigration and stressing the intersectionality and interrelatedness of immigration with many other present-day issues.

Anna Silberman, a member of BAM, reflected on the purpose and success of Immigration Week.

“As BAM, what we really wanted was to [create]… time and space for these conversations and panels and then just letting people do with that what they will, sharing their experiences with such vulnerability and candor,” Silberman said.

To kick off the week on Monday night, the up and coming poet and immigration activist Sonia Guiñansaca gave a talk on her personal experience with immigration, and about the issue in a broader context, as the keynote speaker for the event. Then on Tuesday, the Asian Pacific Islanders Association (APIA) — representing a group that often gets overlooked in the conversation about immigration — hosted a panel in which the members of the club spoke about the challenges and difficulties of being an immigrant, either first or second-generation, in the United States.

Silberman spoke of her interactions with members of APIA after the panel.

“I heard from some folks who did the APIA panel who were like, ‘Never am I encouraged to speak about my immigration experience and story and life, and never am I given the time and space for it, and especially encouraged in this positive light,’ and in that way, I’m really really proud of how the week went,” Silberman said.

On Wednesday, Club Latinx hosted a similar panel, where members of the club spoke about the challenges of assimilating into American culture and the difficulty of being expected to simultaneously be a part of two cultures at once, while neither one fully is accepting of the other.

These panels were both informative and emotionally impactful, as each balanced the goal of educating those in attendance and getting across the visceral humanity that’s deeply embedded in these issues. Reflecting on the week, Silberman spoke about this emotional weight.

“At every single event, there was something in the room that people could feel that was just captivating and everyone was really present,” Silberman said.

Although the members of BAM were happy with Immigration Week — especially with their collaboration with various clubs in the panels and teach-ins — the members expressed frustration at the lack of turn-out and enthusiasm for the events of the week and the issue of immigration as a whole.

BAM is an important part of the Whitman activism landscape, and represents communities that are often underrepresented, and supports issues that, although deeply personal and relevant to members of BAM and other clubs, often get forgotten about in the larger activist culture. Mayrangela Cervantes, the leader of BAM, although happy with Immigration Week and satisfied with the success the event did have, wants all students to be aware of their own status in society and used a uniquely Spanish word to express her opinion.

“ ‘Ubícate’ — that’s the biggest thing I’d like Whitman students to know is, ‘ubícate,’ locate yourself in the larger world context, acknowledge your privileges because we all have privileges,” Cervantes said.

‘Ubícate’ translates literally to ‘locate yourself,’ but Cervantes stressed that the word’s essence is lost in the translation to English. Sabina Rogers, a member of BAM,  responded to Cervantes’ emphasis on the Spanish word and spoke about her perspective on the importance of Whitman students appreciating the idea behind ‘ubícate.’ 

“Which is so relevant thinking about borders and boundaries and how they’re not just these things that nation-states create but they’re our skin and who has to recognize their borders every day,” Rogers said.  “But whereas some people can go through their day… [and] don’t have to be aware of the space you take up and how you take up space and that you are permeable… and what is your role in all of this.”

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“Ubícate”: (Im)Migration Week at Whitman