The word “selfie” might have gained esteem for its social media popularity, but some Ohio State students attempted to redefine the trend to kick-start an OSU week of diversity inclusion.
OSU community members posed for photos at the “Selfies for Social Justice” event at the Ohio Union on Monday to participate in Ally Week, a week aimed at encouraging an OSU community of acceptance.
“Who doesn’t like taking a selfie?” said Angie Wellman, intercultural specialist for the Multicultural Center. “Selfies for Social Justice is actually an opportunity for students to visually make a statement.”
Ally Week is an annual OSU initiative that seeks to promote the acceptance of others within the central Ohio and OSU campus community. Ally Week aims to raise awareness and increase education and action toward the acceptance of people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and other identities, according to an OSU website. The entire week of events is expected to cost about $10,000, Wellman said.
During the selfie event, participants could dress up in costumes before having their photo taken in a photo booth.
The costumes allowed participants to have fun with an otherwise serious topic, according to “No Place for Hate” commission graduate administrative associate, Gisell Jeter-Bennett, who is also a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History.
Participants also signed a pledge Monday to “combat prejudice,” which some held up while posing for photos taken by the Columbus Photo Booth Company to document support of the Ally Week mission.
“It’s about a multitude of acceptance … being able to see pictures of people who hold all types of social identities,” Wellman said. “Students can sign to say ‘I pledge not to create an environment of hate.’”
Ally Week began in 2012 as a response to students protesting the defacement of Hale Hall in April 2012 when “Long Live Zimmerman” was spray painted on the side of Hale Hall, Jeter-Bennett said.
Hale Hall was home to the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center, part of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Police at the time said the graffiti reference was most likely to George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader who allegedly killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense on Feb. 26, 2012, in Florida. Martin was black and Zimmerman was Hispanic. Zimmerman was found not guilty.
“Students used that moment as a platform to address other issues that students are facing here on campus,” Jeter-Bennett said.
Wellman said the Ally Week event — which is sponsored by the Multicultural Center, Fraternity and Sorority Life and University Housing — includes various activities, such as a talk with a panel of members representative of a multitude of racial, ethnic, gender and faith-associated identities and a presentation by comedian, actress and writer Maysoon Zayid of the Ted Talk “I got 99 problems…palsy is just one.”
“I think when you look around our campus, it’s clear that we have all different students from all different places and spaces,” Wellman said. “Our work is simple in creating spaces for affirmation and inclusion.”
Wellman said it is important to engage in conversations to understand others who perceive themselves as different.
Some students said they identified with the mission of Ally Week.
“I think Ally Week is very important,” said Neil Ramirez, a second-year in mechanical engineering. “I took (a selfie) because I want to end all suffering.”
He said he wanted to end the suffering associated with being excluded.
Arona Mostov, a first-year in international studies who participated in Monday’s selfie event, said she agreed.
“I just believe that we should support everyone,” Mostov said.
Jeter-Bennett said the overall mission of Ally Week is to educate students so they can as an “ally” to those people who identify differently from them.
“You can be an ally in so many ways,” Jeter-Bennett said. “The fact that we’re all people and all human should be enough for us to care about one another.”
Ally Week ends Thursday.
Clarification: Sept. 23, 2014
An earlier version of this story incorrectly called the “No Place for Hate” commission the “No Place for Hate” task force. The initiative was previously called a task force but has since but renamed a commission.