Group works to educate on immigration issues
This past week, the Brandeis Immigration Education Initiative held Immigration Awareness Week. As a part of the week’s programming, BIEI placed cardboard figures—which the group referred to as “silhouettes”—around campus, but these installations were largely dismantled just a few days later.
The silhouettes were placed in various locations around campus to represent “the students who successfully graduated from high school, but because they were undocumented, could not attend American universities or colleges,” wrote BIEI Co-President Yasmin Yousof ’15 in an email to the Justice.
The group wrote quotations on the silhouettes from conversations that its members had with students regarding identity, immigration, race and being a student at Brandeis, according to Yousof. All of the quotes were written anonymously on the silhouettes.
“While we are aware that some of the quotes were to say the least conspicuous and maybe even provoking to some, the end goal was to post all over campus real conversations from real students about real issues,” wrote Yousof.
The “shadow people,” as Yousof wrote, were installed on Friday night, and according to BIEI Co-President Margaret Much-Hichos ’15 in an email to the Justice, most of them had been vandalized by Monday.
According to Much-Hichos, the group is unsure who vandalized the silhouettes, how or why they were vandalized. In fact, Much-Hichos wrote that the group did not believe they were vandalized in the first place. “After a closer look is when we figured that someone vandalized it,” she wrote.
“When the shadow people were destroyed a part of me felt really hurt. These shadow people are what many people feel and think. To me to see that destroyed was a lack of respect and understanding,” wrote Much-Hichos.
Yousof wrote that the aim of Immigration Awareness Week and displaying the silhouettes around campus was to start a dialogue at Brandeis regarding the immigration issue. “The sudden backlash, and the destruction of the silhouettes was unanticipated. We don’t believe this is the true candor of [a] Brandeisian, and we believe in Brandeis’ mantra of social justice,” wrote Yousof.
The group will be putting up the remainder of the silhouettes that had not previously been around campus, despite the vandalism. “We hope that by putting up the rest of the silhouettes we can give people the opportunity to talk about immigration,” wrote Much-Hichos.
Immigration Awareness Week featured several events, including a panel about education and immigration, a performance night called “Dream Monologues” at which individuals expressed their feelings through dance, spoken word, poetry and song and a simulation game to experience life as an undocumented individual versus as an individual with a visa or green card. The goal of the week was to educate the Brandeis community and “expose the school to the Immigrants [sic] perspective as well as their family and friends lenses,” wrote the group in an email to the Justice.
—Saadiah McIntosh contributed reporting.