Rise Above -Isms Week encourages discussion about inclusivity

Posters about rising above -isms started popping up this week as Rise Above -Isms Week kicked off Oct. 31. Many student organizations are holding events all week encouraging diversity and inclusivity.

Rise Above -Isms week, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, is a week-long series of events “to address and encourage greater awareness and action” toward making the University of Maryland a more inclusive institution, “particularly for historically marginalized communities,” Janelle S. Wong, co-chair for the event, said.

“We really hope students learn more about how to communicate and practice inclusion,” said Wong, who is also the director of Asian American studies program and resource center. “For example, how to use inclusive language to include transgender people and how to be inclusive through knowledge, such as learning more about immigration policy and how it directly affects students’ experiences at UMD.”

For senior English major, Natalie Filipov, it means “rising above, basically, the systems that oppress people and the small things people do to oppress people. You know rise above -isms like rise above sexism, rise above racism, rise above ableism.”

“I think that privilege is invisible to people who have it and i think that’s something that obviously needs to be changed if we want to see any kind of progress,” Filipov said. “I’m queer and I’m disabled and I definitely feel discriminated against at times. She added that it would be “cool to not be exposed to that kind of discrimination and that kind of negativity.”

The week-long event started in 2013 after members of the University of Maryland community asked for more conversations around how we can interrupt and eradicate prejudice after the killing of Trayvon Martin, said Beth Douthirt Cohen, director of education and training for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion.

Cohen said they’ve made sure the programs encourage engagement and are “both restorative and educational.” Some of the events include Native Roots Monologues, which featured tribal activist and attorney, Tara Houska, Pronouns Pronouncement Day, Inclusive Language Training, and UndocuTerp Training.

“The week has always been committed to thinking about and dialoguing about how we can better work towards justice here at UMD and in the world,” Cohen said.

But the event’s goals have expanded over the years. Rise Above Week encourages the campus community “not only be aware of and to ‘rise above’” exclusions, but also, as part of rising above, “to take concrete action as an individual and as part of various social groups to actively confront systematic marginalization on our campus,” Wong said.

Over the years, Cohen said by doing this event, she’s realized “how important it is to have a time when we as a community talk about issues of justice together.”

“There is still work to be done, especially for undocumented black and brown folks,” Ogechukwu Igboemeka, junior public health science major, said. “Often anti-immigrant rhetoric, let’s take Trump’s, for example, instills and promotes hatred and fear in folks towards immigrants.”

Rise Above Week’s discussion on immigration and undocumented people helps educate people about the other side the story and makes them “probe deeper” into the issue, Igboemeka added. “It’s really wonderful that [it] helps bring out the voice of immigrants because there’s so much that isn’t being said.”

“[Discrimination is] everywhere in our society, so I think a college campus is a good place to start addressing it,” sophomore Nicole Sciabarra said.