In February, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship took a student poll on the state of racial reconciliation on OU’s campus. For two days, we had tables set up in the Union and the Bizzell library to catch students for a few minutes and hear their input.
We got rather varied responses. A lot of people felt frustrated with the current situation, or felt that things are getting better. But there were also plenty of students who believed that racial reconciliation is about as good as it gets, and those who have a lot of anger towards the whole situation.
As part of the survey, we asked students to choose from a list of events which they felt has been a high point in our nation’s history of race relations and which has been a low point. The most popular high point was either the Emancipation Proclamation or the Civil Rights Movement. The most popular low point was slavery. Those were predictable. What I didn’t expect, though, was the also very high number of people who chose the Native American Massacres as the lowest low point of race relations. I know that I hardly learned about those in school; when I was doing research for this event, I was shocked to learn how many different massacres there were. But many people here seemed very familiar with them. I wonder if that’s a geographical difference. Virginia has a very low Native American population, but Oklahoma has one of the highest in the States. I think it’s awesome that people here are so educated on that topic; it indicates at least some level of connection of education to the surrounding community.
Overall, the event was a great way to start conversations about race on campus. I talked to several people who had really interesting thoughts on the matter. Racial reconciliation is a very sensitive and difficult topic to discuss, and so this type of forum was a necessity, as it provided students with a more comfortable environment for discussing an extremely important issue. InterVarsity hopes to continue facilitating crucial conversations in this way.
On April 20, there was an event called “Humanize Me: Syrian Refugee Crisis Awareness” on the South Oval. I went to check it out, and ended up learning more than I had anticipated. The event was very well put-together to inform the average uneducated participant (to be honest, I was not especially informed about the Syrian refugee crisis going into the event). After learning about the general situation a little bit, I was invited to walk through a path set up in the grass. The path, with signs to guide me along the way, represented a typical journey to safety for a Syrian refugee. It had so many more steps than I thought it would, and passed through 7 or 8 countries. I had no idea that the journey of one refugee was so international.
The pathway was outlined by little plastic flags. Not merely for decoration, these flags helped to provide a visible representation of the scope of the crisis. As the information sheet I was given details, each flag represents 11,500 people that have fled Syria, 1,600 people that are internally displaced, 790 people that have been killed, and 3,700 that have been wounded. And I walked through those flags much in the same way that a lot of the world has been walking through this crisis unaware of how devastatingly impactful it is. It’s so easy to see the crisis as a list of numbers. But walking in the footsteps of one refugee and his family helped me to understand the trauma it really is.
In April, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IV) partnered with an international organization called Love146 (https://love146.org/) to raise awareness on campus about human trafficking.
Love146 is a nonprofit that works in America and throughout the world to educate about and prevent human trafficking and to rehabilitate human trafficking victims. For a week, IV had a table set up on the South Oval and in the Union. We tied red strings on people’s wrists to help them remember throughout the day to think about (and pray for, if they wanted to) victims of human trafficking and the traffickers themselves. We also provided more information about human trafficking and Love146 if people wanted, and gave them an opportunity to donate to Love146.
On Thursday, April 14, we had an event called the “Night to Loosen Chains”. A speaker from Love146 came and taught us about the realities of human trafficking (as opposed to the dramatized version most of us are more familiar with) and about what Love146 does to prevent and deal with it. I learned a lot about human trafficking that I didn’t know before – for example, that human trafficking is about evenly split between genders, and also that human trafficking is evenly split between people trafficked for sex and people trafficked for labor. As for what we as students can realistically do to help fight human trafficking, the speaker said that the best thing we can do is to mentor a younger child. Providing them with a loving friend makes them less vulnerable to traffickers, and also gives them someone to notice if they are suffering from abuse or other potential signs of trafficking.
Two student artists from OU also presented some of their work in response to human trafficking. One of them, Gina Butler, created a comic about her personal spiritual journey and her understanding of the horrors of human trafficking. She also created t-shirts and prints that she sold at the event. Both the information tables and the presentation were surprisingly well-attended. There’s a girl in one of my classes who still has her red bracelet on, even a month later. Although the event has ended, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I am hoping to mentor a child this summer, and I am interested to figure out how else I can get involved in fighting human trafficking over the next year.
The Chinese Club’s main event this semester was the Spring Festival in February. We had traditional Chinese food, candy, and Chinese games like Gou. It was a great time hanging out with other people who share the same love of Chinese as I do.
We had intentions of starting a Chinese conversation hour to practice our speaking skills, but unfortunately it was very difficult to generate interest. Only about four people even responded to our poll to find a time that would work for everyone. The president of the club, A.J., and I got lunch one day to discuss ideas about how to increase club participation. We decided that people don’t feel connected to the club, so we should plan more community-building activities – but of course, that’s what we were trying to do with the conversation hour. Next semester’s the start of a new year, though, with new students on campus; hopefully, with increased advertising and more planning in advance, we can make the club stronger.