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Students and staff gather to discuss nonviolent protest at Women’s Center

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Students, professors and community members gathered at the Ohio University Women’s Center on Thursday for an open discussion on nonviolent protest both on- and off-campus.

The session was the first for the fall semester in a series called Brown Bag Lunch and Learn. The short meetings take place on the first Thursday of each month with varying topics, and participants are encouraged to bring their lunches to eat during the discussion.

This meeting featured three speakers: delfin bautista*, director of the LGBT Center; Katherine Jellison, professor and chairperson in the history department; and Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, associate director of the Multicultural Center.

To begin the discussion, led by Women’s Center Director M. Geneva Murray, guests were asked to ponder their own definition of nonviolent protest.

“(Nonviolent protest is) engaging in activities around an issue that one is passionate about in a way that, in your opinion, is not necessarily violent,” Chunnu-Brayda said. “Because, of course, what may be deemed as nonviolent to one person could be violent to someone else.”

She explained that someone could be offended by a protester standing quietly with a poster and the words on the poster could be considered violent, despite potential lack of physical viciousness.

Jellison drew from her own experiences to segue into resisting discrimination. She spoke about remaining true to one’s nonviolent stance, even in the face of violent acts toward oneself.

“It’s also important to remember that those that we are engaging or challenging are also people, and they have their own messy identities,” bautista said.

Throughout the entirety of the session, students and other attendees were encouraged to speak, but Murray directly opened the floor when the topic of protests currently being covered in the media arose.

First mentioned was Colin Kaepernick, NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and his recent refusal to stand during the national anthem in protest for the rights of people of color.

Other instances were cited, but the message was constant — certain events flicker in the media and hold public attention for a short period of time; however, they are soon pushed to the back of the news consumer’s mind and replaced with a more recent event.

“I’ve learned to be a little more selective in protests that I’m willing to be a constant, physical presence in,” Jellison said. “Maybe the other ones that I can’t physically be there for, I could do something else — write a check, make some contribution.”

The speakers also agreed that social media greatly helped with representation. People who would not normally get a voice in mainstream media or the commercial world are able to take a more visible stance on issues.

“I thought the discussion was very well done,” said Salgu Wissmath, a first-year graduate student studying visual communications. “I enjoyed it.”

The next Brown Bag Lunch and Learn topic will involve breast cancer and the effectiveness of certain charities or campaigns. To see the topics for future Brown Bag Lunch and Learns, view the Women’s Center calendar here.

Editor’s note: *bautista uses they/them/their pronouns and their name is spelled with all lower case letters.

 

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