New publication to highlight diverse voices

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Author: Hannah Fishbein

The Consciousness Collective, a new student-led publication that aims to highlight Occidental’s diverse community by providing a platform for marginalized student expression, will publish its first issue later this semester.

The Consciousness Collective is the product of a student initiative spearheaded by Haarika Reddy (junior) and Olivia Davis (junior). Because both Reddy and Davis are studying abroad this semester, Raihana Haynes-Venerable (junior) and Alma Olavarria Gallegos (first year) are executing the publication in partnership with Intercultural Affairs (ICA). According to Haynes-Venerable, Reddy and Davis wanted to create an expressive space on campus for students of color.

Haynes-Venerable and Olavarria Gallegos are organizing the publication along with a team of eight students. The team is currently reviewing submissions, which are graded on a rubric to determine their relevance to the theme of the upcoming publication, “What Remains.” Olavarria Gallegos explained that the phrase “what remains” is symbolic of feelings people experience after traumatic events when they find themselves thinking about how to proceed.

So far, the Consciousness Collective has received only a handful of submissions, but Olavarria Gallegos expects to see that increase in the coming days as awareness of the program spreads.

“We do think there is a wide student interest in the publication,” Olavarria Gallegos said. “A lot of students have said they want to be a part of something like this or would support it if it existed.”

The selected pieces will be published online around when they are presented during an ICA-sponsored showcase in April.

Though a partnership with ICA was not originally part of Reddy and Davis’ vision for the Consciousness Collective, Olavarria Gallegos and Director of the Intercultural Community Center Jonathan Grady said ICA reached out to the Consciousness Collective with a common goal of highlighting student narratives and sharing experiences of injustice and inequity through a showcase.

“We at the ICA wanted this particular showcase to be about hearing sentiments or stories from the whole community, not just at Occidental but globally and nationally so we can talk about where we can go from here and how we can work together,” Grady said.

The Consciousness Collective’s partnership with ICA also includes funding for the showcase and the magazine’s first print publication following the ICA event. Consciousness Collective organizers and contributors themselves are unpaid. Haynes-Venerable said the collaboration had been successful so far and that it has been helpful to have ICA’s support.

While Consciousness Collective’s affiliation with the ICA will end after this semester, Grady said that the collaboration between intercultural groups on campus will continue.

“It’s important that these conversations are sustained over time,” Grady said. “That is something that speaks to the kind of work we do [in ICA]. These conversations will continue not just through the showcases we put on throughout the year but also through workshops, training, research and continued collaboration with student groups.”

Members of the Consciousness Collective are looking forward to becoming an independent publication in the fall, according to Olavarria Gallegos, when funding will come from grants, fundraising and donations. Members hope to be paid for their work in the future. Both Olavarria Gallegos and Haynes-Venerable felt that operating independently from ICA will be crucial in allowing students to freely express opinions that may criticize the college.

“Having the freedom and the ability to critique and speak freely is essential,” Haynes-Venerable said. “We don’t want people to have the fear of any repercussions for speaking out since the ICA is so embedded in the college.”

Both Haynes-Venerable and Olavarria Gallegos said that the introduction of the Consciousness Collective is essential for students to continue speaking out against the injustices they experience, especially in light of the Oxy United for Black Liberation’s student occupation of the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center (AGC) in November.

“In my whole time [at Occidental] I haven’t felt that there has been a space for that,” Haynes-Venerable said. “The protests just solidified the need for something like the Consciousness Collective. The occupation also grounded what we had already been saying and thinking and feeling. The AGC occupation made it more public to the school and outside. In some cases, it’s for our survival for us to feel like we are being heard.”

Olavarria Gallegos added that the movement on campus is not over. For her, the Consciousness Collective is another form of protest and resistance.

While Haynes-Venerable and Olavarria Gallegos acknowledged that the Consciousness Collective has the potential to address injustices Occidental students experience, they also note that it is not a solution to those injustices.

“I think that this can be a step towards healing but I don’t want it to only be seen as a place to heal,” Haynes-Venerable said. “Honestly, I’m still angry. Things still aren’t happening [within the administration]. I have a right to not be healed and to let my anger move me.”

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