Powerful campaign utilizes extreme words to show their impact
When an interactive public art display on the Estrella Mountain Community College’s campus was defaced by extremely derogatory and hurtful language, it inspired a campus leader, and student activists to unite to create awareness and change.
Last year, a student success event featured a wall that allowed students to fill-in-the-blank of the statement, “When I graduate, I will _______.” The opportunity not only invited them to look toward their respective futures, but also to share dreams, plans, and goals with others. In a couple of incidences, people chose to write statements that were directly offensive to women, and to the LGBTQ communities. The unfortunate comments exemplified how quickly one word is able to change a mood, affect meaning, and affect a person or group of people on multiple levels; ultimately how one word can be utterly dehumanizing.
EMCC alumna Ri’Anne Holmes’ dream of advocating for the transgender community in her future career was one of the statements that was defaced. In collaboration with the college’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance student club, Holmes engaged with faculty, staff, and other student groups to develop the I Am Human campaign. A multimedia endeavor that uses video, posters, campus displays, student and employee demonstrations, and a website to reach audiences at large, the campaign directly addresses these language issues that are experienced in daily life in order to address their impact and develop and foster situations that confront the use of hurtful words, replacing them with ones that encourage and inspire. Some of the campaign’s graphics feature persons holding signs with messages like: “I am not a fag,” or “I am not a bitch,” with those derogatory terms crossed out, and each sign ending with the empowering statement, “I am human.”
"Diversity is part of Estrella Mountain's values,” says Holmes. “This campaign embodies that by promoting awareness and acceptance of intercultural affairs. It is crucial students know Estrella Mountain is a safe place to express their culture, thoughts and aspirations. It is equally important for students to be aware of the resources available if their rights are infringed on."
This multidimensional campaign transcends beyond the presentation of these materials to spotlight the issue and raise awareness, but has taken on a new life, becoming part of classroom lessons and conversations. Additionally, educators and staff that are utilizing the campaign are also collecting feedback and utilizing the data to show its impact. The words and scenarios they describe have stayed with them for years.
EMCC’s goal for the I Am Human campaign is that it serves as a continuous conduit for change. Its creators are excited to share it with the community to foster and build new relationships and partnerships, and to use these interactions to make this crucial message a dominant one.