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October 10, 2013 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-10-10

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From Page 1B
According to Cabriales, the
mainstream gay agenda often
entails fighting around one identi-
ty, which he doesn't feel is the right
approach. He recalled the words of
Caribbean-American feminist and
civil, rights activist Audre Lorde:
"There is no such thing as a single-
issue struggle because we do not
live single-issue lives."
"We are not single-issue peo-
ple," Cabriales added.
This realization of a need for a
space where queer people of color
wouldn't have to prioritize one
identity over another helped bring
Ngo, Uduma and Cabriales to the
Ngo was first introduced to
the Coalition after participating
in the rXs intragroup dialogue, a
program that preceded the Coali-
tion for Queer People of Color
and is now run through the Coali-
tion. Launched in fall 2011, rXs is a
semester-long dialogue program
for LGBTQ people of color that,like
the Coalition, seeks to create a safe
space for queer and trans* people
of color to share their lived experi-
ences and connect with others.
"I had just come out, so I was so
focused on my sexual orientation
and so focused on gettinggay males
to accept me," Ngo said. Whel
Coalition founders Gordon and
Chen approached him about join-
ing the RxS dialogue, he was "very
apprehensive and even scared."
"But going through the process
really changed my whole out-
look on identities and reinforced
to me that I didn't have to, and I
shouldn't have to, pick one or the
other," Ngo said. "I should be able
to live my life fully, recognizing all
of myidentities."
Sustaining diversity
With its history of liberal
activism and radical social move-
ments, Ann Arbor and the Univer-
sity's campus are often assumed
to be a bubble of tolerance and
acceptance. As Uduma and Ngo
explained, that can be a problem-
atic and blinding approach to how
we view the campus.
"I think it paralyzes people into
thinking that they have this check-
list," Ngo said "As long as they
check off 'OK, I'm a liberal; OK, I
have a diverse group of friends; OK,
I treat everyone equally,' they think
they can walk around and just feel
good about themselves. I think
that's actually a boundary for them
to actually go deeper and delve into
the biases that we all have."
Uduma agreed, but also recog-
nized that there are some people
who come to Ann Arbor who feel
the safest they've ever felt. "For
some," she said, "Ann Arbor is the
place where they feel safest to be
"I can attest to that," Ngo inter-
"But for others, a lot of us feel
stifled here," Uduma continued.
"It's a liberalism without being
conscious about what's going on
and without being critical about
what's going on."
Part of that disconnect comes
fromthe fact that some feelthe Uni-
versity itself has many shortcom-
ings when it comes to answering
the needs of queer students of color.
"In my experience, all the
departments at the University have

this message of wanting diversity,"
Ngo said. "I feel like it's a lot of lip
service, saying that they're. inclu-
sive and saying that they have a lot

Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 3B
feeling SAD,
seek help.

The Coalition collaborates with other groups and co-sponsored an event celebrating Latin@ culture on campus on Oc

ofdiversitybuthavingno actionfor
how to really implement and how
to really be trueto their word."
Uduma reiterated that the Uni-
versity has to put more action
behind the dialogue on diversity.
"There's such a focus on num-
bers and increasing the numbers
for diversity, but there's noth-
ing about sustaining the students
that you already have," she said.
"What happens when you have
this increase, and you don't know
.what to do with these students?
They're still goingto face the same
problems that you're not willingto
change structurally or implement
more programs beyond just talk-
ing aboutit."
"It has way more to do than
just programming," Ngo added.
"If the staff in your department
is all white, why aren't you talk-
ing about that? Are you trying to
recruit more people of color and
more queer people of colorto really
serve the students? Are these stu-
dents even a priority in the first
place? So I think just structurally,
those are issues I've seen on cam-
pus. You can say that you want
diversity, but where is the dedica-
tion? Where is the actual action?"
One of the most visible resourc-
es and spaces for multi-cultural
students on campus is the Trot-
ter Multicultural Center, which
originally opened in 1971 as a black
student cultural center, but was
expanded to become an inclusive
student multicultural center in
1981. The Trotter House, while
providing useful programs and'
resources to students of color, has
its downfalls.
"It's falling apart," Uduma said.
"That place is not sustainable."
The Trotter House also doesn't
necessarily provide a safe space
for queer students of color, as the
building is located near frater-
nity houses. Fraternities, as Ngo
explained, are not always safe
spaces for queer people.
When asked about where the
Coalition sees a need for reform at
the University level, Ngo echoed
Cabriales's belief in a plurality of
"There's not necessarily a
queer-person-of-color issue," Ngo
said. "All issues are geer issues.
Because we haveto get healthcare,
too; we have to be in these classes;
we might have to go to SAPAC; we
also have to go to UHS. We need to
make sure these departments real-
ize that queer students are on this
campus, and they need to tailor
their services for us, and people of
color, and the intersection of both."
Creating safe spaces

creating a community and safe
space for people to be themselves
and love themselves. This year's
theme for the Coalition is "Radi-
cal Love." Ngo said the Coali-
tion's core has been grappling
with a critical question this year:
"What's the point of expending all
of this energy on the University or
sources that don't care about us, on
trying to convince people to care
about us when they don't and they
never will?"
The Coalition answered by tak-
ing an inward look and deciding to
channel its energy into fostering
a community where queer people
of color can feel safe, affirmed
and empowered. It accomplishes
this through events like Coalition
T(ea), a weekly eventhosted bythe
Coalition that allows queer people
ofcolor to talk about their personal
lives as well as current events and
news on campus and beyond.
"We're tryingto focus our ener-
gy on really loving ourselves, each
other, on creating a space where
we can be us and not apologize
for it," Ngo said. "And from there,
people will have a stronger foun-
dation to go out and radically love
ourselves in front of other people."
"We've given that space to peo-
ple to say you are special; you are
good enough; you are beautiful
enough," Uduma said. "You get to
define who you are in this space,
and I think that's radical in and of
itself. Because we allow people to
be who they are in a world that tells
them they can't be who they are."
Ngo quoted feminist person
of color Kim Karin Crosby, who
changed his life at the Coalition's
"Color of Change" conference
last year, saying: "Our most radi-
cal work is to love ourselves." To
Ngo, creating spaces for people to
love themselves and not be sorry
for who they are is what the Coali-
tion is all about. It might not look
like what people generally think
of as activism, but creating com-
munity and safe spaces can change
people's lives and how they view
"In that one moment, I can
be who I am around people who
aren't going to judge me, who are
going to understand," Uduma
said of the Coalition community.
"Then, I can go back into the world
a little bit stronger and feel a little
better about myself. And feel like
I can sustain myself for as long as
I need to until I come back to this
space with these people and get
more of that."
Cabriales described one of the
first events the Coalition orga-
nized. Called Family Barbeque,the
logistics of the event were simple:
a gathering of peers for a meal and
conversation. However, the event
was only open to queer people of
color. Family Barbeque immedi-

ately created a buzz, some of it in
opposition from white or straight-
identifying people who were
excluded from the event. But the
other reaction was one of intense
revelation: Many attendees had
never been in a room surrounded
entirely by queer people of color.
Creating a community like that,
Cabriales said, was something that
simply had never happened for
most of the queer students of color
who attended.
"We create, deconstruct, rei-
magine community constantly,"
Cabriales said.
Empoweringthe community
The structure of the Coalition
reflects its commitment to a sense
of community. The organization is
non-hierarchical, and even though
there are designated chair and
core positions, that's just for orga-
nizational reasons. The Coalition's
core doesn't have a designated
leader or leaders making executive
decisions: Everyone participates in
the process together.
The Coalition also gives agency
to its general members who might
not sit on the executive board but
still have the power to plan and
organize events around their
interests.Atthe Coalition'sgeneral
meetings, all members spend up
to two hours together, discussing
what they'd like to focus on that
month. If someone comes forward
with an idea for an event they'd
like to plan, the Coalition gives that
person the opportunity to plan and
spearhead the event themselves.
"We're really about making sure
that when we say we're a commu-
nity, we actually have action behind
it," Uduma said. "So this is a chance
for peopleto get involved with what
they're passionate about."
Ngo, for example, organized
a Coalition event that addressed
domestic violence and intimate
partner violence last year, even
though he didn't hold an official
position at that time. Though he
wasn't a part of the core and had
little experience, the Coalition
gave him the agency to lead the
event and make it his own.
"I still felt like a part of the com-
munity anyways and felt empow-
ered to plan this event," Ngo said.
That emphasis on community
and engagement is what drew
Engineering freshman' Sebastian
Rios to the Coalition. He attended
the organization's first mass meet-
ing this year and was blown away
by how many people of different
identities he met.
"I really think it's important for
an organization to have an active
role," Rios said, "to bring some sort
of supportto minorities and to sub-
groups in the community."
Rios also attended one of
the Coalition T(ea)s, which he
described as an ongoing dialogue,
where people can discuss and
analyze the societal implications,
attitudes and misconceptions
about relevant topics. The Coali-
tion invites queer people of color,
straight people of color, queer white
people and straight white people to
participate in these dialogues.
The Coalition T(ea) conversa-
tions are another way the Coali-
tion constructs new spaces for
people to share their experiences
and connect with others, ulti-
mately building on that foundation
of racial love and radical self-love.
Most of the teas are held at public
spaces like the Espresso Royale

on State Street, but the Coalition
also makes sure to host some teas
in private, undisclosed'places for
people who may prefer anonymity
when discussing their identities.
"I think that just because we are
talking about things that no one
else is talking about, that breeds
a sense of intimidation or fear,"
Ngo said. "But all we are doing is
reclaiming spaces and our own
experiences and saying we need
spaces to talk about these issues.
And if that's radical, then so be it."

The onlyslightly comi-
cal aspect of Seasonal
Affective Disorder is its
ever-so-appropriate acronym:
SAD. It does, in fact, make you
sad. But
beyond that,
there's noth-
ing even rel-
atively funny
about this
for us Michi- CARLY
ganders. KEYES
A recur- -
rent winter
depression also known as the
"winter blues," SAD usually
begins in October or Novem-
ber and subsides in March or
April, and includes symptoms
like "oversleeping, daytime
fatigue, carbohydrate craving
and weightgain, and in more
extreme scenarios, hopeless-
ness, social withdrawal and sui-
cidal thoughts," accordingto the
National Alliance on Mental Ill-
ness (NAMI) Michigan Chapter.
The depth of the havoc
wrought by SAD relates to
the amount of daylight during
autumn and winter, which can
affect levels of chemicals and
hormones in the brain like sero-
tonin, a mood elevator, and mela-
tonin, a sleep-pattern regulator,
according to University Depres-
sion Center.
So, it makes sense that SAD
hits Michigan hard - our win-
ters are a never-endingsupply of
gray days and a lengthy string of
sorry-lookingskies. (Note to self:
another good reason to move to
Los Angeles when I graduate.)
The less the sun shines, the
less we shine inside. Obvious,
right? We all know that it feels
inherently better when we look
up at the sky and see a bright,
blue abyss rather than a dull,
drab oblivion. But we can't
ignore the hard science of SAD,
because it reveals why one of
the most effective treatments
for this mental health disorder
and the like is anti-depressant
I don't advocate relying on
an all-powerful "magic pill"
to do all the work for you,
to chase away the blues and
illuminate your eyes with
rainbows. University Depres-
sion Center suggests all of
the usual, undeniably help-
ful activities to combat SAD:
Get plenty of exercise, spend
time outside, eat a healthy
diet and practice relaxation
techniques like meditation
and yoga. NAMI also recom-
mends installing bright, white
fluorescent light bulbs, or a
special lamp, as a form of "light
But in the midst of a depres-
sive state, sometimes it's not

so easy to move a muscle
to change a thought. Tell-
ing someone who's clinically
depressed to "just cheer up"
is like telling an alcoholic to
"just quit drinking." This is not
a quick fix. Depression, like
alcoholism, is not a conscious
choice; it's a mental illness.
And to end my own battle with
depression, I needed more
than help from Mother Nature.
First, I needed a doctor.
During the fall semester of
my freshman year at the Uni-
versity of Pennsylvania; despite
my success in the classroom
and on the soccer field, I start-
ed feeling down for no reason.
Pretty soon, I had every SAD
symptom. But I just chalked
it up as standard fatigue from
an incredibly active, stressful
I was wrong. Soon, there
was nothing standard about my
fatigue. Every day was a strug-
gle to get out of bed, to get to
class, to get through a training
session, to get toothpaste on my
toothbrush. I morphed from a
3.5 GPA student in the Wharton
business school and a starter on
the varsity soccer team into a
lethargic zombie behind closed
blinds with a Taking Back Sun-
day playlist on repeat.
You can't just
will yourself to
be happier.
"What is happening to me?"
I thought. "Who would choose
Then my gradesdropped like
crashingstock, and I was onthe
verge of quitting the soccer team
because it was hard to sprint
around a track when a walk to
classbecame a chore. Miserable
and hopeless, I finally admitted
that I needed more help than I
could give myself and made an
appointment with the Pennclinic.
After a few weeks on medication,
I went on a run for the firsttime
in months, and I cried my eyes
out afterward because I feltlike
myself again.
Just as a diabetic, or anyone
else with a chronic condition,
needs dailymedication, I'm no
different. Mental health disorders
are no different. So, if SAD dark-
ens your doorstepthis season, and
you find yourself in a situation like
mine, where self-care is futile,
don't be afraid to seek additional
help. It made all the difference
for me.
Keyes is soaking up the
sun. To join her, e-mail



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