Ally Week gives voice, support to immigrants

Felipe De La Hoz/WSN

Students and faculty gathered in the Kimmel Center for University Life’s Rosenthal Pavilion on April 18 for “Undocu (stories): A Call to Action” — the closing event of NYU’s fourth annual Ally Week.

“Undocu (stories)” capped off a week filled with workshops and training sessions meant to deepen students’ understanding of societal injustices, as well as ways they can help advocate for marginalized groups.

Assistant Director of NYU’s Center for Multicultural Education and Programs Selima Jumarali said she wanted this closing event to have a learning opportunity.

“I think focusing on one lens of allyship was the perfect close, so people who didn’t know about undocumented issues could come to learn,” Jumarali said.

The event began with a student-produced film about allyship and an address from NYU President John Sexton. Later, student activists for undocumented students, including Neriel David Ponce, Angy Rivera and Francisco Gutierrez, spoke in a discussion moderated by NYU DREAM Team member Mark Putterman and co-founder Maria Monica Andia.

The students educated the audience about the difficulties undocumented individuals face in a discussion.

“When I was growing up, my mother never wanted us to go into the DMV or any government building,” Rivera said. “You just always live in fear of deportation.”

Gutierrez said many undocumented people who are also queer frequently live in fear that they will be sent back to a country where their sexual orientation means prosecution.

Each panel member has actively worked to eradicate these fears by advocating for healthcare and financial aid for undocumented individuals.

NYU’s DREAM Team has similar goals. Founded in 2011, the DREAM Team aims to call attention to challenges undocumented students face. Right now their biggest focus is asking NYU to provide financial aid to undocumented students.

This was the first year that the DREAM Team’s initiative was incorporated into NYU’s Ally Week.

“We’re really happy to be included and its great that conversations about allyship are becoming more inclusive of different communities,” Putterman said.

The DREAM Team also helped organize DREAM Zone, an interactive training session that aims to explore issues surrounding the undocumented community. This training follows in suit with the other NYU “Zone Trainings” featured during ally week: Safe Zone, Diversity Zone, Faith Zone, and Action Zone.

These workshops focus on teaching students about the issues that affect certain marginalized groups and on how they can help.

“The Zone trainings are really our staple programming during Ally Week,” Director of NYU’s LGBTQ Student Center Celiany Rivera-Velázquez said. “Because in order to be an ally, you need to know how to be an ally.”

Rivera-Velázquez explained that Ally Week was created four years ago with the goal to give students the resources and education to enter allyship as well as rejuvenate people who have been working to be an ally for a long time.

Jumarali encourages students to come to CMEP and the LGBTQ student center, step out of their comfort zones, expose themselves to different cultures and communities, and help these centers create a better platform to assist more students in becoming allies.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 21 print edition. Kristina Thomason is a contributing writer. Email her at news@nyunews.com.

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