Almost 100 students gathered together in solidarity to celebrate marginalized communities on Centennial Green Thursday evening. The event was an alternative option to attending or protesting the Fake News Panel with controversial speakerMilo Yiannopoulos.
After Yiannopoulos’ last visit to campus, Steve Ross, who runs Cal Poly’s Black Academic Excellence Center (BAEC), said many students of color, specifically Black and undocumented students, felt stressed and upset. As a result, Ross and the BAEC decided to collaborate with the Dream Center and Cross Cultural Centers to host the “Kick Back.” Ross said it was a place for students to gather in the spirit of resistance, rather than protesting at the event.
“This is not an opposition to protest. I am a fan of protesting,” Ross said. “My thing though is not every student is going to want to protest, and for those who are — especially over the last two weeks — for those who are either burnt out of it or want to not engage [in protests], this is the perfect way to do that.”
Political science sophomore Rosa Lopez, a Movimento Estudiantil Xicano Aztlán member who has attended several recent protests and spoke at the town hall meeting held in response to the recent blackface incident, said many students chose to attend the Kick Back as a way to protest Yiannopoulos.
“We know we kind of have a target on our back because of everything going on and our protests against it,” Lopez said. “This is kind of our way of showing that despite what people believe we are going to be doing, which is protesting [Yiannopoulos], this is our way of protesting. Just coming out here and not paying attention to that event or acknowledging it.”
There were significantly less people protesting Yiannopoulos than during his previous visit to Cal Poly.
Instead, students at the Kick Back sat together eating, talking and laughing. Some students played spike ball and soccer and others danced to music.
“If you look around and take a step back and take it in, everyone looks so happy,” animal science sophomore Angelica Macalisang said at the event. “If I were the person putting this on, it would make me feel so happy, like even if only a small portion of people came, the people that do come feel welcome.”
Macalisang said the event showed a strong sense of community and was intended to show that the community would not be affected by Yiannopoulos’ presence. Macalisang said she believes events like the Kick Back are a step toward inclusive progress.
“It is basically just a space for people who don’t feel comfortable with [Yiannopoulos] being here … where we are not really protesting, we are just kind of gathering and being here in solidarity with each other, like a safe place to kind of not give him attention and to just focus on ourselves,” child development sophomore Madison Torio said at the Kick Back.
After the potluck, students were invited to watch “Maine Girls” in the Science building. “Maine Girls” is a short documentary discussing the challenges of immigrant high school students faced with navigating a predominantly white school. Ross said the documentary adds a relevant and educational element to the event.
“At the end of the day, it’s opportunities for students of color to get together, students of marginalized identities to get together to hang out in a space that is a little more culturally relevant for them,” Ross said.
The Dean of Students also hosted a concert in Poly Canyon Village to serve as an alternative event to the Fake News Panel.