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Advocates on campus connect in harris


NORA Coghlan, News Editor
coghlann17@grinnell.eduadvocacy graphic

Grinnellians are known for their advocacy and activism, but oftentimes efforts and issues are addressed on a more individual level.  This week advocates on campus and in the community gathered together in Harris at an advocacy forum, hoping to bring together Grinnell’s network of change-makers.

The advocacy forum, hosted by Grinnell’s branch of Oxfam as part of International Women’s Day on Monday, allowed different kinds of advocates to compare methods and share tips.

“The idea for the event was to bring together advocates from a broad range of people working on a broad range of issues both on campus and in the community because advocacy is really important. It’s a critical part of the Grinnell community, but I think we wanted to provide a space where groups could … find commonalities,” said Moses Gaither-Ganim ’16, who facilitated the discussion.

Gaither-Ganim stressed the importance of gathering together to compare strategies in order to be more effective voices for change.

“Oftentimes we find ourselves working alongside one another or working on our own issues but aren’t often able to come together,” he said. “So we viewed this as a space where we could share ideas, learn from one another as well as talk about advocacy generally … and what kinds of things you have to consider in order to be an effective advocate.”

The event began with short presentations from five different advocates from the campus and greater Grinnell communities. Each discussed their individual missions, challenges and gave advice. Presenters included students, professors and community members.

The topics covered included environmental advocacy by Senior Lecturer Liz Queathem, Biology, disability and accessibility by Vantage Point media head Jalyn Marks ’16, alternative farming methods with local farmers Barney and Suzanne Bahrenfuse and Abraham Mhaidli ’17 from RISE Grinnell, about activism in Grinnell.

Grinnell Advocate Lana Sabb ’16, who spoke about her experiences advocating for survivors of sexual assault, felt that the wide range of topics and levels of experience made the conversation informative and encouraging.

“It was really great to have so many different people there,” she said. “It was really great to talk to people who have been doing advocacy all their lives and how they work with it now and do it sustainably.”

As an Advocate, Sabb found the event inspiring, and appreciated the community that developed around advocacy.

“It was really nice for me on a personal level because … you can become so jaded or hopeless, so it was nice to hear these people who have been doing this all their lives and they haven’t given up … and just to hear that we had so much in common.”

Individual presentations were followed by a large group discussion about effective advocacy. Participants spent a good portion of their time discussing intersectionality.

“[We] talked about really trying to be intersectional and if everyone in that room … [could] see what struggles we have in common,” Sabb said. “[The conversation] was a step back — an awareness: What are we doing? What do we share?”

Gaither-Ganim felt that the event sparked important conversations, and hopes that collaborative advocacy will continue in Grinnell.

“I think it was really a success. With this kind of thing, these kinds of conversations need to keep happening,” he said. “It’s not something that can only happen once and then kind of dissolve … especially if it’s an effort to bring people together and … create some kind of more unified movement.”

Both Sabb and Gaither-Ganim appreciated the result of bringing different types of advocates together.

“Bringing together like-minded groups, that’s something that should continue to happen,” Gaither-Ganim said.


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