Interview with Irma Reyes Aragon '21
This week, the Justice spoke with Irma Reyes Aragon ’21, the president of Brandeis Latinx Student Organization, about their multi-part FuturX event on Oct. 19.
JustArts&Culture: Can you tell me a bit about your role in the FuturX event?
Irma Reyes Aragon: I am the president of the Brandeis Latinx Student Organization, so I was kind of in charge of overseeing it, and helping come up with the event, so I guess I had a pretty big role in it in helping come up with different events that we want to do, reaching out to people to help facilitate the conversations as well as having the different performers ... a lot of logistical things in regards to contracts with Conference [and] Events for the different things that we needed for the spaces and things like that.
JAC: This is the fourth year of the FuturX event. Is there anything your club did differently this year?
IRA: This year, the only part that has been done before was the “Incendio” part of it. … So last semester we were talking about what we want our organization to be doing and impact that we believe we can have for the Latinx student on this campus. So we felt that just having the culture showcase wasn’t enough to bring awareness to the issues that Latinx students face on this campus as well as just in the U.S. or like in Latin America. So we wanted to come up with events that could target those issues and could bring awareness to them.
So we felt that it is really important to have a conversation about “knowing your rights,” especially in the climate of today’s administration and the anti-migrant rhetoric, and so we wanted to provide a space for students to learn and to feel that they could protect themselves in the situation either themselves or family members. And then we also felt that as the Latinx community is becoming larger on campus, as well as in the U.S. and becoming more recognized, we felt it was really important to dissect the term and how it does disclude certain people from that community as well as what the advantages of the term are. So we really want to do something different and new, something that could expand beyond what was done in previous years, so we really wanted to have a long-lasting impact instead of just being one event for people to enjoy and then never think about it again. We want it to be a resource for students to learn from.
JAC: As you mentioned, the “Know Your Rights” workshop focused on undocumented students and how can they be supported. Do you think the Brandeis administration offered enough support to help those students? Is there further action you would like to see the school take?
IRA: I don’t know how much I can speak on it. I do know that Brandeis administration had shown public support for DACA students, and that they worked with the Brandeis immigrant education initiative, which was led by Elias Rosenfeld ’20, and I think he has done a lot of work to advocate for undocumented students on campus. I have the privilege of no longer being undocumented, so I no longer have had to personally reach out to find those resources on this campus. However, from my interaction with other students who may not be documented or who are in more delicate processes of documentation, I do know that a lot of different parts of the Brandeis administration, in particular like Student Financial Services or DCL, aren’t as sensitive or aware of the impact that they have on undocumented students because I think often they don’t know how to navigate those conversations and can be insensitive and not necessarily acknowledge what they’re saying or how undocumented students carry themselves on this campus differently than students who have privilege of being documented. I think there could be more resources outwardly provided to undocumented students. I think that these students often have to go and find resources themselves, so I’d love to see the Brandeis administration engage in like activities or events like ours because we reached out to the friend groups and tried to get them to come out and stuff like that, but I think it will be nice to see Brandeis administration or someone else to take it upon themselves to bring resources to the students instead of the students having to seek out those resources themselves. As well as potentially also just providing better training or providing different groups some kind of training, or a way for them to know how to engage with undocumented students because the way that they communicate with those students and the resources they provided for the students aren’t necessarily going to be same as they provided for other students.
JAC: A lot of people have different definitions of “Latinx,” considering it includes such a diverse group of cultures. In your opinion, what are the features that define “Latinx”?
ARA: This is my personal opinion. I think it is such a broad term and I don’t think there is one singular definition of it. Being Latinx myself and being the president of the BLSO is something that I think about pretty much everyday, but I don’t think that I can define it and I don’t think that anyone else can really define it. I think being Latinx to me means that I am from Latin America, I was born in Mexico and immigrated here to the U.S. ... That’s why I believe that if you are from Latin America region, you are Latinx, but everyone identifies themselves in different ways, and I don’t think I, or anyone else, can dictate that to someone else. So to me being Latinx is being from Latin America.
JAC: What’s the process to gather such a big crowd of on campus and off campus performers for this event?
IRA: It takes a lot of work. I think I really have to thank my outreach chair Maria Aranibar ’22, as well as my event coordinator Sarah Grado ’21 and Zuham Moreno ’22, as well as my publicist Jennifer Aguilera ’22, because I think they did a lot of work to reach out to these groups from off-campus, as well as students on campus to get them to come out. And our outreach chair did a lot of finding other Latinx student groups at different universities, and then Zuham did a lot of work to stay in contact with them, and updating them on what we needed from them or what could we provide and when event was taking place, and Sara did a lot of work of like bringing everyone together and organizing the event, and Jennifer did a lot of work getting students on campus to come out and engaging them through our social media and really keeping this event in people’s minds as something they can come to. So, it did take a lot of work, but I think they did a lot it to make it successful.
JAC: Anything else you want to add?
IRA: Lastly, I would just like to thank everyone else on E-Board because me having this interview with you right now is just one person, but I think every single person on E-Board does so much to contribute, and to lead to the success of the event, so I think everyone should receive equal recognition in the success of the event. I am really thankful to them and the ICC for helping us and other student culture organizations on this campus for being able to succeed.