Student activists come together for Cougars in Solidarity


Photo by Krystina Andrade

Participants at the cougars in solidarity event listen to speakers on May 2.

Adrianna Adame, Assistant Opinion Editor

CSUSM students gathered in solidarity to discuss the need for social justice, healing and action after the fatal April 27 shooting at the Chabad of Poway on April 27.

Around 300 people  filled up the USU Amphitheatre from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 2 to attend Cougars in Solidarity.

Cougars in Solidarity was created in less than 48 hours by Sophie Nadler and Samantha Caracciolo, a student assistant in the Office of Inclusive Excellence and by student activists, later receiving support from the university.

“We wanted everyone to be recognized in their humanity, allowed the ability to speak before the university and to come together to collectively condemn all white supremacy towards any group or community,” said Caracciolo about organizing the event.

The evening started with a prayer and moment of silence led by American Indian Student Alliance (AISA) Chairman Rachelle Peterson.

After the prayer and moment of silence, students were able to participate in the healing in action activity. In this activity, students responded to questions about how they healed and how to take action. They wrote  their responses on a poster board located at the bottom of the amphitheater. One of the most noticeable responses for the question on how to take action was “View all as Human!”

Student speakers from various student organizations then took the stage. Some of the organizations who contributed to Cougars in Solidarity were the CSUSM Student Nursing Association, The Black Sistahood, Transitions Collective, Chabad of CSUSM, AISA and Catholic Club. Many of the speakers were emotional during their speeches and appeared to have made the audience emotional as well.

Margo Newkirk from Chabad at CSUSM spoke about how the shooting at the Chabad of Poway deeply impacted her, especially since it was close to home.

“I’m touched by it being a Jewish person, I’m touched by it being a Chabad member, I’m touched by it being a member of our campus community and as a mother of Jewish children,” she said.

Margo also said that acts of hate such as the shooting in the synagogue in Poway “stems from not understanding each other, not having the tolerance or patience for each other … we need to look at ourselves and think about our internal mini prejudices … and think about how we can communicate with someone that we don’t agree with.”

Faith Garcia, College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral and Social Sciences (CHABSS) Representative from the ASI Board of Directors, said  “To do better [to stop hate], we must stand by our own communities and other communities and celebrate each other.”

“On a campus where we value our diversity, culture and leadership, we now have students who feel unsafe and uncomfortable for a degree that they are paying for because of a fellow student,” said Garcia, “… This [the shooting at the Chabad of Poway] was a hate crime.”

Afterwards there was  a candle lighting ceremony. Students recited   the name of a person who was murdered from a hate crime, from a flash card that was given to them earlier. The flame from the candle was supposed to represent the spirit of the person whose name the student said out loud.

Prayers were then led by Chabad of CSUSM and Catholic Club. Muslim students were given time and space to do their prayers in silence as well.

CSUSM  President Karen Haynes spoke at Cougars in Solidarity, expressing her “heartache, dismay, grief, regret, anger at this horrific fact [that] in Poway last Saturday was perpetrated by one of us.”

“I have heard and stand I with you, against hatred in all of its manifestations and with the strength and commitment you have all spoken to for inclusion, to healing and taking action,” said President Haynes, “ …We shall continue to seek to understand and hold others accountable.”

Students then held hands and shouted that they would not tolerate hate and would prevent it from happening again.

Towards the end of the event, during her emotional speech, Caracciolo said, “Tonight is a night of action … If our institutions don’t back us, then nothing changes.”