Although some would like to think that UC Davis is relatively untouched by marginalization, graduate student Sumer Seiki would strongly disagree. This week, Seiki will present “Academic Inclusion: Undoing Marginalization,” an art exhibit and symposium that touches upon issues of racism, sexism and classism.
The exhibit opened on Apr. 6 and will run until Friday at the Art Lounge, located on the second floor of the Memorial Union. The two-part symposium will be held at the Art Lounge on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Those who attend both symposiums and participate in all the events will be awarded a certificate of completion.
Seiki understands the covert nature of marginalization and wanted to use the art exhibit to bring it out into the open.
“Oftentimes only close friends or family hear these types of marginalization stories and experiences of the process,” Seiki said. “I wanted to give the campus community an opportunity to hear their fellow campus-mates‘ experiences and thoughts out in the open. I think if we understand what is happening on campus we can work toward change.“
For the exhibit, Seiki accepted submissions from any artist personally influenced by such discrimination. She then hand-selected pieces for the showcase, which includes a range of art from poetry, film and fine art.
Anthropology professor Karen Ann Watson-Gegeo has donated two poems to the exhibit in support of speaking out against social injustice. As a woman of mixed ethnicity from a working-class background, Watson-Gegeo’s work has been fueled by her personal experience with marginalization.
“Because of these experiences, I decided to devote my life and career to research, practice and activism on issues of social justice, poverty and helping students from marginalized communities succeed in schools and universities,” she said.
Similarly, painter Zahedus Sadat uses his art as a means of expressing his struggle with cultural exclusion as a non-native to the United States. Sadat explained his disconnect with American traditions and rituals and the isolation that resulted from this lack of synchronicity.
“My hope is that this will motivate some to help the international students adjust to the culture quickly. Native students will cooperate more with other international students [as well as] those who are from different cultures or other parts of [United States],” Sadat said.
Senior sociology major Markee Slagel created an edited self-interview that discusses the inequalities students face in receiving access to campus resources.
“My personal experiences with marginalization on campus include exclusion from university events, student resources, prejudicial and condescending treatment from professors, extreme social isolation and threats upon my life,” Slagel said in an e-mail interview. “It’s tough being different in our society, and equality of either opportunity or outcome are more myth than fact for many people.“
Slagel pointed out that the use of personal experience by the artists is simply a means of opening up issues like these for discussion.
“I speak about myself, but not for myself, in an attempt to inform and stimulate discussion between audiences that are unfamiliar or uninformed with regards to transgendered people and the enduring nature of prejudice in our liberal society,” Slagel said.
As the weight of these issues is heavy, art seems to be the perfect avenue for sensitive discussion.
“Art lies at the nexus of social marginalization and the communication of information; it’s about the truths of life,” Slagel said.
“Art is a tool for development and a means of expression,” Sadat added. “Art can speak a thousand words.“
For these artists, the bottom line is raising consciousness.
“I hope that those who have never experienced marginalization due to race, ethnicity, gender, social class or disability come to have an understanding of and empathy for students who have endured exclusion,” Watson-Gegeo said. “I hope that for students who have experienced exclusion … come to a deeper understanding of their own experience and a stronger sense of how to overcome those experiences.“
JULIA MCCANDLESS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.