UMBC celebrated a day of action for immigrant communities and their contribution to the university and the United States. The occasion was held during May Day (May 1) in the University Central plaza where students and faculty gathered to mark the experiences of immigrants who have come to America.
Gerardo Herrera-Cortes, a sophomore majoring in visual arts and graphic design, said that “What the day of action means to me is a day of recognition, a day of visibility, and a day of appreciation for immigrants and allies who are at UMBC.” He added, “I think that we’ve reached a point of ignorance. … and the reason to have this [event] is to really go back up and show that we exist and we are still fighting for rights that we don’t yet have and fighting for people that we love and truly appreciate.”
During the event, multiple speeches were given by students and professors who were either immigrants or descendants of immigrants from multiple races and backgrounds. Attendants were asked to wear red in solidarity and recognition of those immigrants on campus instructing or attending classes. Additionally, students were invited to don red ribbons and stickers with national flags provided by event hosts, as well as post their own stories regarding their immigrant background on a physical celebration wall next to the University Center.
One speaker, Mehr Lamba, a junior majoring in social work, said, “I love it. As an immigrant myself, even though I’m pretty much assimilated into American culture, I still feel very strongly about how it’s not fair, with what’s happening with immigrants and I just think it’s great that UMBC is doing something.” She added, “For me, the day of action is kind of like a humbling day to realize that even though we’re all different, we’re all basically the same, we all have struggles with the stories we have and it’s not fair to try and stifle it, and the day of action is our way – in my head at least – of sharing those stories and trying to bring humbleness to those who aren’t immigrants.”
Ana Maria Schwartz Caballero, associate professor of modern languages, linguistics, and intercultural communication, hosted the event along with Tania Lizarazo, associate professor of Latin American cultural studies, performance studies, digital storytelling, transnational feminisms and memory studies. Thania Muñoz, professor of Latin American literature and culture, Maria Manni, professor of Spanish language and Elizabeth Arevalo-Gueverro, professor of Spanish language also helped to host the event. They hoped to create a visible, public presence for immigrants and their supporters on campus in order to show the impact they have on the student body and community.
Caballero said, “In order to mark that day, we wanted to recognize the contribution that immigrants have made to this university. … What we wanted to do is have a day with immigrants in order to see what impact immigrants have at UMBC. What really pleases me so much is that there has not been one negative word from anyone all day and I think that shows who we are here at UMBC.”
Although at this time there are no definite plans for such May Day events in the future, organizers hope to continue to provide a platform for immigrant stories to be shared throughout the UMBC community going forward.