The rain and cold didn’t stop the 95 Stories student group from gathering to welcome newly admitted students to Hope College’s campus this past Saturday for Love Thy Neighbors Day.
95 Stories is a team of students of color and LGBT students at Hope who use activism and dialogue to change campus policy and counter racism and homophobia. They believe in Christian nonviolent action and work to promote systemic change and sustained social progress on campus. The event on Saturday had a simple yet profound message to those visiting campus: You are loved, and you have family here.
The day began early with a gathering of students meeting at 7:30 a.m. at Hope Church. From there, the students walked with large banners to the front of the DeVos Fieldhouse lawn and stood outside from 7:30 to 10 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 3 to 5 p.m. so that waves of students were greeted throughout the day. Community members, faculty, students and pastors from Hope Church all participated to welcome new students into the Student Life Fair held in the field house.
The five months of campaigning for this event and the participation of nearly 50 volunteers paid off: $1,674 was raised and some 1,300 baked goods were distributed into 320 goodie bags. These reached around 380 students. In addition, 325 copies of the group’s student resource booklet were distributed throughout campus. These booklets contain information and services for students who may need support on campus.
Each year, hundreds of new students arrive on campus to begin their exciting college journey. 95 Stories believes the stress of class, new friends, and a new home should not be confounded by the stress of whether or not they will be accepted here. This group is making strides in the community to communicate that no matter who you are, Hope will strive to be a safe haven for you.
To learn more about 95 Stories and their role on campus, check out 95 Stories at wordpress.blog. These short blog entries detail experiences of racism and homophobia on campus. Reading these entries is challenging and might make you uncomfortable, and that is there goal. They serve to promote activism, dialogue and sustained action in a way that counters instances of homophobia and racism.
While advocating against these two experiences, 95 Stories is careful to not equate them, given that every person’s experience and struggle is different. It is every person’s responsibility, not just those in the 95 Stories group, to learn how to become a better ally against hate and injustice in our community.
If you are passionate about making Hope’s campus a more welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds, skin colors, and sexual orientations and would like to get involved but were unable to stop by the event, don’t fret. This student group is here to stay. There will be many more opportunities to get involved in the fall. Email Joshua Kam at joshuakam1996@ gmail.com if you are interested in becoming a part of, or an ally of, 95 Stories.