MASS Office reflects on start of "I Am Antiracist" campaign


At the beginning of the semester, President Davies announced that CMU will be committed to becoming an antiracist institution. The Multicultural Academic Student Services (MASS) Offices' new 'I Am' campaign will be one of many steps in the process.

Heaven Silas, a graduate assistant in the MASS Office, said that the idea for the campaign began when university officials asked her office to plan an event that would start a conversation about anti-racism on campus.

"When (the university) asked us to do something, they didn't give us any ideas or plans, so we just came up with them on our own," Silas said.

The name for the campaign, 'I Am' was Silas' idea. She said the name is meant to spark pride in people's identities while leaving room to discuss differences. 

Julio Velasco, another graduate assistant, said much of the inspiration for the campaign, "came from our personal experiences as students of color on campus, at a predominately white institution." While there is training and talks about anti-racism on campus, Velasco said most of it is directed to faculty and staff rather than students. 

The MASS office distributed anti-racist literature at the "I Am Anti-Racist Book Fair" held in the Center for Inclusion and Diversity on April 7. 

Silas said the goal of the book fair was to provide students and faculty members with context; something they could have at the ready and pass on if they deem necessary.

Both Silas and Velasco said that the short-term goal for the project is to start a conversation on campus, and educate students on the difference between not being racist, and being anti-racist. 

"We want students to be able to continue that conversation in classrooms, in dorms, when they're having lunch with their friends," Velasco said.

In the long term, the graduate assistants said they hope the university will take the necessary steps to provide better resources to students who belong to marginalized communities. 

"(The university) need to ensure that those groups are protected, those groups are safe," Silas said. "Those groups have the necessary resources and safe spaces to go to, that they feel seen and represented."

The duration of the program is not yet confirmed. However, Velasco said there are plans in the works for multiple events during the 2021-22 academic year.

Antiracist resources are available on the 'I Am' campaign page on Central Link. Students can find definitions, links to other antiracism accounts and an updated schedule of events. 

Students can also follow the MASS office on Twitter (@MASS_CMU) and on Instagram (@mass_cmu) to learn more about the campaign.