June 18, 2024

We Have A Dream: Triple A at Gordon College

Makesha Mercedat '23

ALANA ran its second Triple A event at Gordon College in collaboration with MIO clubs and GCSA, one of the biggest student-led collaborative projects of the year. The three-day event, from September 15th-17th, featured topics focused on American Racism, Activism, and Allyship.

Triple A was organized over three months by a diverse commission of Gordon leaders: Elizabeth Barnes (’23), President of ALANA; Mariah Brecheisen (’23), Secretary of ALANA; Caleigh Williams (’24), Vice-President of AFRO Hamwe; David Massillon (’22) and Carissa Moy (’24), Co-chairs of Dear Neighbor; Daniela Sintuj (’23), Vice-president of La Raza; Janelle Maxwell (’23), President of ASIA, and Kenneth Kidd (’22) Vice-president of Student Life.

Members of the commission believed the event went extremely well. Janelle Maxwell commented.

“So many people put [in] so much work into the event. It was great to see people open their hearts to the conversations discussed at the events.… I pray that everyone was able to walk away learning something new.”

Gordon College senior Katie Pelletier did just that the first night of Triple A.

“I didn’t know the difference between Asian-American and Pacific Islander until tonight,” she said. “I also came to recognize how covered up the Thanksgiving aspect has been. Definitely in our American school systems, they are cheating us out on the full history of the country. History is messy, it doesn’t need to be prim and proper. I just feel like, wow, brainwash here.”

Another student, sophomore Jemimah Prosper, was baffled at the fact that Haitians were considered Latino.

“I had no idea until last night that we were considered Latino!”

Commission member Caleigh Williams shared:

“I was excited and anticipating what people would get out of the event, mainly with freshmen and Dr. Hammond in his first year with us.”

She describes her feelings after the event in one word: Hopeful.

Elizabeth Barnes, the president of ALANA and leader of this commission applauds her team for putting together this event.

“The MIO clubs and GCSA worked so hard for three months to put on such an amazing event, it was an honor to work with incredible student leaders. If you get the chance, get to know them, they’re dope.

“This is my passion, to have conversations of race that push people’s perspectives and gain allies for these causes. My hope is that the conversation continues, and that people don’t wait for another hate crime or incident to care about this again. This year, my heart is to prioritize the conversation even more, and Triple A was an amazing way to start.”

For those who may have missed out, keep reading for a summary of the event.

On Wednesday night, a steady flow of students entered through the doors of Tupper Hall to randomly assigned tables, while excited chatter and R&B filled the air. The tables were adorned with flowers and candles set in mason jars, a picturesque setting for a night revolving around a grotesque topic.

As the music faded away, all eyes were on the clubs’ eight student leaders of different races and creeds standing in front of a projector screen. The event title was displayed in the background: The History of Racism in America. After a word of prayer in English, Haitian Creole, Korean and Spanish, day one was underway.

Throughout the night, four different underrepresented groups presented their experiences: indigenous, Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian-American, Pacific Islander (or AAPI). After each presentation, students were encouraged to discuss what they learned and answered a specific question in their groups.

Alyssa Hutchinson (’24) and Mariah Brecheisen led the conversation on Indigenous history. Hutchinson, who is of Mexican descent, began with a personal story; she spoke of discovering Indigenous ancestry through DNA testing which prompted her to learn more about her heritage.

The two ladies also elucidated current struggles of Indigenous people, such America’s false account of the first Thanksgiving, the denial of the Trail of Tears as genocide, and the flaws of Blood Quantum, through which the government limits citizenship based on amount of “native blood.” They also discussed the over-arching eradication of Native culture, as well as misrepresentation in history. Indigenous people are, and continue to be, the most unheard group in American history.

Brianna Smith and Jamila-Ashanti Scales led the discussion on black history. They opened up their presentation with a question: Do I accept that race and racism as well as power and privilege are embedded in our society? Scales and Smith reminded attendees that even though chattel slavery was abolished in December of 1865, a new system of slavery arose: the modern prison system. They also indicated that racism doesn’t only come in big forms, but also comes in forms of microaggressions, such as touching one’s hair or saying “you’re pretty for a black girl.” Black people also find themselves outnumbered in professional settings, which is significant for college students college preparing future careers. Finally, they emphasized the fact that religion is not the cure to all the racism that has been endured by black people. 

A discussion on Hispanic/Latino history followed. Yamilla Mateo ‘(23) told her story through a skit depicting a conversation with herself in a mirror. She highlighted some important facts such as the difference between “Hispanic” and “Latino/a/x”; while Hispanic refers to language, Latino refers to geography (for example, Brazil and Haiti are Latino, but not Hispanic). She boasts with pride about being Afro-Latina, saying to herself, “You’re not loud, you find family [and value] in people.” The skit provided a deep, personal outlook on a often misrepresented demographic and served as a testament to Mateo’s jovial and benevolent presence on campus and on social media.

Lastly, Q Cole (’24) and TeddyMax Talanoa (’23) spoke on Asian-American, Pacific Islander history. Cole hails from Kazakhstan and Talanoa’s family is from American Samoa. They pointed out that they are from completely different parts of the world and have different traditions, yet for some reason they are put together as one group. In the last year, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have joined together in the fight against racism and discrimination. Cole put it simply but poignantly: unification in marginalization. Before Hawaii was chartered as the last American state in 1959, it was a constitutional monarchy. That is before American fruit companies like Dole arrived and began to annex the entire kingdom. Talanoa brought up the fascinating point that Pacific Islanders are often dubbed as “entertainers” in the United States. Hawaii and other Pacific Islands are known for little more than their global tourism. Their tradition and culture are viewed as entertainment rather than a historically meaningful way of life. The media portrayal of Asians was also another stark point in their presentation; from villains to the “nerdy, straight A” character, Asians, among other POC often get the short end of the stick when it comes to proper representation.

After engaging in more discussion, attendees were left with one final question: How is God prompting your heart to respond right now? What is the next step he is calling you to take?

Day 2, which focused on activism, included more engagement with peers and student leaders.

Upon entry, students received a slip of paper with the name of an activist and sat down at corresponding tables, featuring a picture and a blurb of what the activist’s work. The names included John Lewis, Da’Shaun Harrison, and Supreme Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The event began with words from musician and muralist Alex Cook, as he explained how he used his artwork as activism to spread love across the country. Specifically his series of “You Are Loved” murals focused on the thoughts and feelings of a community rather than presentation. The series began by commission in Burlington, VT in support of victims of human trafficking. Since then, the “You Are Loved” project has taken off in many communities around the country. “With sincere listening to God and prayer,” he says, “we can have ideas that can change the heart of a community or nation.”

After Cook’s moving oration, students were asked to discuss a series of questions surrounded by activism, such as: What are some concrete ways you can be an activist as a Christian college student?

Students were then directed to different stations: making care packages for the homeless, signing petitions, and writing letters to members of congress. The commission saw these a the small steps of activism college students can take.

Day 3 was a celebration of allyship in the Clarendon Commons. Students gathered by the bell to hear performances by their fellow peers: several musicians performed, including God’s Chosen Gospel Choir led by Brianna Rivera (’22), as well as spoken words by William Lot (’23), Genna Kim (’23), Michel Bayarjargal (’24).

In addition to performances, the clubs provided food from various cultures, and students were encouraged to write messages of joy, love, peace, and allyship on the ground with chalk.

These events point to the success that student collaboration brings to the college. Triple A cultivated an environment of education and committee that the commission hopes will be a sustainable addition to Gordon’s campus for a long time to come.

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