Category Archives: ‘Tine Talks

Q&A with Gladys Vargas

IMG_9138NAME: Gladys Vargas // she, her, hers

MAJOR: Journalism
MINOR: Visual Arts

PROJECTS:
Yoni Ki Baat // Tech, Performer

ABOUT:
I am a student, writer, and artist! I’ve lived in the Greater Boston area my whole life, born to immigrant parents from Venezuela and Puerto Rico (Caribeños wya??) I got involved with activism through my school, community, and church. Being raised Christian especially motivates my work because though it’s been a challenge to reckon with the violence of the church as an institution, as well as exploring my identity as a queer person, I think that loving unconditionally and serving the most marginalized communities is something that the gospel and true social justice work have in common. The work I do right now is through groups on campus, as well as using school assignments as an excuse to learn more about the causes I’m interested in!


Q: Could you explain what Yoni Ki Baat is and your involvement in it?

Gladys: Yoni Ki Baat was brought to BU last year by Ina Joseph (she is a graduating senior this year) and it’s a part of The Vagina Monologues. It’s like the sister show to The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. But it’s put on by students who write their own monologues, and specifically, they are students of color and non-binary people. Yoni Ki Baat was made to highlight more issues within sexuality at the cross-section of being a woman or being non-binary or being a person of color, because The Vagina Monologues, while necessary, is like a bit dated in it’s content and it’s very white focused and woman focused. I started out doing Tech for The Vagina Monologues and then wrote a piece for Yoni Ki Baat. I wrote it really fast one night and then I didn’t think that I was gonna share it with anyone, really. Then my friends encouraged me to join Yoni Ki Baat and I just felt like sharing anything. So I chose that piece to audition with. And then I kept editing it and it became a really amazing process of working with this amazing group of people. And then also just like coming into my own and realizing different things about the piece that I hadn’t realized before. It became really empowering and fun. We were supposed to have a performance, but that was canceled because of Coronavirus, so we adapted the episodes into a podcast on Spotify

Q: What are some challenges that you see as a student activist on campus? 

Gladys: One of the things that discourages me the most is when people say that they’re supportive, but then they don’t show up with support or when their support is not where it should be. When people post on their Instagram story in support of something, but then they don’t actually do the work of donating or learning more about a certain community it feels like they don’t actually want to get involved in the work. It feels like they’re more invested in trying to appeal to a group of people that are criticizing them for not being involved. 

Q: How do you think we can encourage people to take action beyond just posting on social media in a way that isn’t performative?

Gladys: People have to open themselves to learning because you can’t force someone to learn if they’re not willing to. I think that a really important part of activism is being willing to know that you don’t know everything, even if it’s about a community that you’re a part of. So it’s just being willing to listen to other people’s perspectives and entertain their ideas. Even if you at first are like, oh, that doesn’t seem right at all. Just be willing to listen to it in its entirety and absorb it and really think through it.

Q: What are some right and wrong ways social media can be used as a tool for activism? 

G: I’ll start with the wrong ways to get the negative out of the way. Social media can be such a time suck and something that can make us really stuck in our own heads. It can make us insecure if we’re not using it smartly. We can become really easily jealous of other people or really shameful about ourselves and just feel guilty. There are a lot of negative feelings you can associate with social media and also the laziness that we acknowledged earlier about people posting and thinking that that’s activism in its entirety, or thinking that they know everything about an issue because they saw a video on it. I love social media as a tool for activism because it’s such a great way to learn about other things that you wouldn’t normally learn about and to be connected to people you wouldn’t normally meet. It’s such a global, international platform that allows you to learn about something going on in a different country and see how it relates to something going on in your community or in a state around you. I love that. I think it’s a beautiful way to network. And I’ve been able to connect with people that I wouldn’t otherwise. 

Q: Do you have any favorite Instagram accounts or recommendations?

Gladys: I really like following @ndn.o. They are a graffiti artist and activist who often makes stickers and does work that highlights Native issues. They are someone who does research and takes information from what they know from their community and their experience and highlights it on their page publicly. That was one way that I learned a lot about how the US government is still oppressing Indigenous Americans. So that’s one account that I really like and then I think people should support. But also, @queerappalachia is a great account to explore this huge group of white people that’s oppressed, which is the Appalachian people or people who live in that area. We stereotype Southern people as hillbillies who don’t know anything, but there is a real harm in that stereotype and there are real living, breathing people who aren’t super conservative harmful people living in the South and they are disadvantaged by the same people that people of color and low income people are. I like that account because it highlights that issue in its entirety, especially being queer in Appalachia. I also really like @thefatsextherapist. Her name is Sonalee and is a therapist who does trauma and sex informed work. I found her account really eye opening because we struggle as a society with fatphobia. Her work is so unapologetic in that it says what needs to be said. And then you absorb it and you learn it and you think about how it’s influenced other things in your life. I think that’s really powerful. 

Q: What role do you think that student activists can play in terms of making a change? 

Gladys: I think that if anybody is aspiring to be an activist or considers themself an activist, whether they’re a student or not, what it really means to me personally is paying attention to the ways that people are being marginalized in your space and listening to people when they complain about marginalization. Listen to the most vulnerable populations where you are already and learn how you can help them, because that’s what honest to real activism is. It’s paying attention and being real about what people are struggling with and acknowledging that you may have had a role with it in the past and moving on and learning about it. I think activism is a lot of learning. 

Q: What do you think it means to be an activist? 

Gladys: For a profile I was writing, I interviewed Fiona Phee, who is a great organizer in Boston. She’s the executive director for March for Our Lives in Boston. I asked her a similar question. She was really, really smart and said that there’s a difference between being an organizer and being an activist. Her work is organizing work. But anybody really can be an activist, because if you are surviving the system that you are in, if you are going up and going to work every day or providing for your family or taking care of the people around you, then you’re surviving in a system that wasn’t built for you and that is activist work in itself. Especially because we can often gatekeep the word activist and say you’re not an activist if you don’t do these certain things. And then it becomes a source of shame or anxiety, and that’s not what the work is about. It’s about welcoming people and being ready to see how everybody can fit into this new vision that we have for the future.

Q&A with Sam Docteur

Sam_Docteur

MAJOR: Sociology

PROJECTS:
-Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) // English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Classroom Assistant
-BU Students of Caribbean Ancestry (SOCA) // Public Relations Chair and Member

ABOUT: I’m a Haitian-American who wants their voice and actions to be heard regarding issues that are happening to the underrepresented, racial and ethnic minorities in the world. I’m passionate about LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, incarceration, and civil rights issues that people of color, especially Black people, face today.


Q: You’re a part of JVS and SOCA, could you explain how you got involved and why these organizations interest you?

 Sam: Sure! So, I’ll start with JVS. I was in Paris [studying abroad] and I was looking for a legal internship because I want to be an attorney in the near future, and JVS showed up and I thought it sounded really interesting. I feel like the first step [to immigration law] is to start working with immigrants and refugees, so I decided to become an ESOL classroom assistant. I have a little experience teaching English because my parents are immigrants from Haiti. And being in Paris I also realized how hard it is to learn a different language in a different country that you’re new to, that shits hard, and I felt like I could relate to these people [ESOL students], so I interviewed in Paris and they basically gave me the job! I was an intern until COVID-19 when my internship stopped, so now I volunteer on Mondays. I call people from 12 pm to 5 pm and help with homework and interview practice. Same thing on Thursday, I just started last week, I’m in a Zoom classroom helping them with grammar. I joined SOCA freshman year spring semester. At first, I was scared because I’m not used to being around so many Black people because I went to a private white Catholic school from kindergarten to 12th grade in southern New Jersey. I didn’t feel in tune with people when I came to college. I joined SOCA hoping that I could spread awareness for West Indian and Caribbean culture and get to know my culture more, honestly.

 Q: How has activism influenced you and in what ways has it affected your future goals?

 Sam: Since becoming an activist, I’ve had more serious and difficult conversations with people, like family members. Before, I used to be quiet about my stances on most everything because being in the neighborhood that I am and being with the people I’m with for mostly my whole life made it difficult to fight for immigration and LGBTQ rights. It’s very difficult, but I realized that just speaking up made me more comfortable with who I am as a person and as an activist. It is hard to have difficult conversations with people you’ve been friends and family with for forever, but I think it’s really important as an activist to have it known that you are here to fight the system, discrimination, everything that’s happening in the world, especially America.

 Q: What role do you think student activists can play in terms of making change?

 Sam: Honestly, having their voice heard. Something that happened fall semester was when Ben Shapiro came to campus. Basically, Black BU and everyone against him was like we are not standing for this, and even though he ended up speaking on campus, even though we didn’t succeed in having him removed from campus, we succeeded in coming together as a community. Realizing that our voices should be heard and that you can’t just ignore us because we are here we are present and that we don’t stand for injustices, especially a person who is denying the racism and discrimination people of color, especially Black people, have faced for hundreds of years, is a real testament to what students can do on campus.

 Q:  What do you think it means to be an activist and how do you define it for yourself?

 Sam: I think being an activist means you fight for a social or political cause that you believe in and you try to take steps that will further better other people’s lives, wherever you are. I’m an activist by being in SOCA and being an ESOL classroom assistant because I want to help the transition from coming from a different country to coming to America be easier for people because I know how hard it was for my parents and I understand how hard it is to learn a different language, to come to a new place not knowing anyone, and to try to figure out your spot in life. I don’t think we should discriminate or be mean to these people who just want a better life and better opportunities than they had before. It’s wrong, honestly, that so many people are in disagreement about how people should have equal, basic human rights in America just for being from a different place.

 Q: How are you feeling about the upcoming election?

 Sam: The system has been broken since the beginning, we’ve known this, and people are surprised that this is happening with Trump against Biden, but I’m not. As a person of color, as a Black person, as a Black queer person you realize that this shit’s been happening since the beginning of time and that people are just now realizing that oh we’re fucked, but no, we’ve been fucked forever, now it’s effecting you and that’s the problem. Hopefully people realize that shit has to change. Keep speaking up because we know that speaking up helps in the long term, we get laws changed, shit happens, but right now the future of America is kind of dim. We’ve got to try and strive on.

Q&A with Bruna D’Amore Giampietro

MAJOR: Public Relations, minoring in Political Science and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

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PROJECTS:
Man Eater Radio Show // Creator & DJ
The Vagina Monologues // Co-Director
Yoni Ki Baat // Co-Director

ABOUT:
I am a student activist from Brazil who is passionate about intersectional feminism and gender equality. I strive to empower womxn and uplift marginalized voices through radio and fundraiser spoken-word performances. Through femme-focused projects, I aim to create safe spaces that highlight womxn while attempting to rebel against patriarchal ideologies.


Q: You’re a part of VAGMO+, could you explain what that is and how you got involved?

 Bruna: I got involved in the Vagina Monologues my sophomore year when one of last year’s directors, Ina Joseph, encouraged me to join. I got cast and then three years later I was chosen to direct with Christina Bissereth. Me and Christina co-directed the two performances this year (the Vagina Monologues and Yoni Ki Baat) and it was so wonderful and I’m so proud of it. VAGMO+ is an umbrella term encompassing two feminist productions, the Vagina Monologues and Yoni Ki Baat. The Vagina Monologues was a play written in the nineties by Eve Ensler. It was considered to be a radical piece of feminist literature at the time. But at the same time, since it was really in the nineties, it can be very, very outdated at points and problematic as well. We do acknowledge it’s great benefits but also that it is problematic. To make up for the lack of inclusivity and to add another dimension and another layer of perspectives, last year’s directors, Ina and Alina added a second performance, a sister performance, called Yoni Ki Baat or commonly known as YKB. This is a platform that attempts to create a space for women of color, queer women and non-binary folks to share their own experiences with intersectionality through storytelling. These performances were a bit like spoken word. This year, even though we didn’t have the opportunity to do the in-person performance, we came up with an alternative plan, the YKB podcasts, now available on Spotify. The best part about this whole community and about the performances themselves is that 100 percent of the proceeds go towards nonprofit organizations in the greater Boston community that support women in need. This year we partnered with Women’s Lunch Place, a nonprofit that supports women who are currently facing homelessness, and we were able to donate about $4,000 from fundraising. 

  Q: Can you tell me a little bit more about your feminist radio show and how it has added to your experience at BU?

 Bruna: I co-created Maneater, which is my radio show on WTBU in the fall semester of my sophomore year with Emily Roe. After we interned together freshman year in an alternative rock radio show on the WTBU called Brain Drain, we decided that we both wanted to create a radio show together because we’re both minoring in women’s studies and we saw that WTBU was oversaturated with Indie and alt-rock radio shows––and there is nothing wrong with that, but a lot of them primarily featured male artists. We saw a real lack of female representation, not only in WTBU but also lack of spotlighting of women artists in the music industry, so together we created what is now Maneater. Maneater became WTBU’s first and only feminist radio show that exclusively highlights women and centers itself around femme-based topics and current events like body positivity, sexuality, sexual empowerment, gender roles, ad stereotypes, politics and abortion. Maneater has also allowed me and the other DJs to dive deeper into the music industry and focus on women artists that don’t often get the highlights that they deserve. This is currently Maneater’s sixth semester on WTBU. I’m graduating this year so I will be leaving it, but I’m really, really proud that it will stay at BU as my legacy.

 Q: What was your favorite theme/topic that you have done on Maneater? 

 Bruna: My favorite theme is Black History Month. For the four episodes that compose February, we do it entirely dedicated to different aspects of the Black identity, such as Black love, Black female artists, and Black female rappers. We always like to come up with different things and then we have different discussions. This year, right before the pandemic broke out, we had a cool discussion about Black love, the portrayal of love in the media, why films are always whitewashed, and why content and media are whitewashed but also wealth related. 

 Q: What does inclusive feminism mean to you?

 Bruna: I love intersectional feminism, inclusive feminism, however you would want to call it. I am drawn towards intersectional feminism because I come from a family of predominantly women and a very strong line of women. And that whole narrative that women are meant to be submissive, that women are weak, that women are secondary to men, all these stereotypes that are perpetuated by patriarchal ideals, that are deeply ingrained in our society are honestly just fabricated bullshit that was made to create a hierarchy of genders. I think that it’s really important that we work towards flipping that script and advocating for gender equality, advocating for women’s rights, advocating for the protection of minority communities. And I think that only through that will we be able to flip the script and make women included and make minorities included in the greater dialogue. I think that work through student activism is really, really important because you’re starting from your classroom and then you can dive into the greater world.

 Q: What do you think it means to be an activist or an advocate?

 Bruna: I think that being an activist is very, very crucial. I always liked the phrase if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention and if you’re not angry, you’re not creating change and you’re not fighting for things that are negative to then benefit people. So I think that being an activist is someone who actively strives to create change in their environment, not only, or not entirely, or not at all in their benefit, but for the greater good of others and to uplift marginalized voices who don’t often get the platform to talk about their experiences and don’t often get the rights and the recognition that they need.