Powerful questions left audience members thinking about everyday issues
North Dakota State University held a human rights panel titled ‘The Seven’ on Jan. 23. ‘The Seven,’ which is described as an “interactive humans rights experience,” offered six speakers, one theatrical performance and three short films.
Though each speech and film fit into the seven aspects of human rights, each speaker and performance had a different topic to share with the audience.
Opportunities for the able-bodied and the disabled
Zoe Randazzo, a graduate student in architecture, was the first speaker of the night. Randazzo’s speech was on how the possible ways we construct our environment influences how we construct our biases.
She first spoke about the Capital Crawl which was a rally that happened in 1990. During the rally, disabled rights activists abandoned their wheelchairs and mobility devices to crawl the stairs to the Capitol building. The activists wanted the passage of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to be passed by Congress and five months later it was.
Randazzo mentioned this rally because today she notices that though there are ramps and elevators incorporated into buildings, architecture still discriminates against individuals depending on the ability of their body. She commented on how designing buildings with access for the disabled is often an afterthought leading to segregation towards the disabled bodied.
Throughout her speech, Randazzo had everyone stand as she spoke about how society views disabled individuals and the ways we need to accept disabilities as a normal part of the world we live in.
Randazzo then asked, “Is inclusion enough?” She continued saying, “Does inclusion start to feel like segregation when our architecture gathers only to segregate?”
She expanded on these questions by stating how disabled bodied individuals always have a separate entrance or bathroom stall that they have to use separating them from everyone else.
“Is the freedom to choose within space a human right?”-Zoe Randazzo, a graduate student in architecture
The reason why Randazzo had everyone stand when speaking was to show how everyone had the choice of where they wanted to sit. Though the built environment gives opportunities to people of various disabilities, Randazzo explained that the freedom to choose within a space becomes an able-bodied privilege that is often overlooked.
Randazzo’s last question was, “Is the freedom to choose within space a human right?” Adding, “If so, who does our built environment consider to be human?”
Her final questions challenged the audience to think critically about changing the way disabilities are perceived by observing public spaces for possible barriers to the disabled, like moving furniture and shoveling snow on sidewalks. Randazzo also challenged the audience to observe their actions when they meet an individual who has a disability, asking everyone to fix any misperceptions.
The next speaker, Shane Balkowitsch, spoke about his photography project, “Northern Plains Native American Series, A Modern Wet Plate perspective”.
Balkowitschs speech titled, “Art Capturing History,” shared his experiences and the people he met throughout the series.
Balkowitsch spoke about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests which ended in Native Americans and other protestors being arrested and treated poorly.
Balkowitsch said that every day we are making history. He then asked the audience, “What side of history do you want to stand on and how will our present actions be viewed by present generations?”
As he ended, Balkowitsch asked for the audience to start pushing against hate and intolerance adding that we shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
A different view of the commandments
Anthony Faris, the gallery coordinator and instructor, gave a speech titled “The Ten Commandments” which was his take on the commandments.
Faris’s commandments included current events such as police brutality into his speech. When he was finished, Faris explained how we often try to think of justifications for one instance of police brutality, but once you view all the cases as a whole, there seems to be no purpose.
Food for all
The Executive Director of the Emergency Food Pantry, Stacie Loegering, gave a speech about her work helping those in need and how we can all help.
Loegering first started her speech by rambling off statistics and several facts about hunger in the community. Then, she took a step back and explained that stating statistics about food insecurity isn’t going to get people involved.
Throughout her speech, Loegering connected the audience to a family who was in need of food by explaining the situation they were in and the look of discouragement and embarrassment on the mom’s face when they were at the food pantry.
By linking the lives of strangers to the audience, Loegering encouraged everyone to think about the needs of others and the situations they could be facing. At the end of her speech, Loegering was asked if we could change the shaming society that we live in, to which Loegering replied we can.
Changing one’s mindset
Frederick Edwards, a graduate student and educational leadership, gave a speech about his past and how he learned how to change his mindset.
Edwards focused on how troubled kids in school often are looked at differently throughout life, though everyone can change their perspectives. One concept he explained was a fixed and growth mindset.
Edwards described a fixed mindset as having a basic understanding and abilities to change. A growth mindset is when the person believes they can develop their mindset with effort and learning.
By giving the audience his personal story of how he changed his own mindset in college, Edwards encouraged the audience to change their mindset as well.
A discussion on sexuality
The one theatrical performance of the night was put together by Marc Devine, an assistant professor of Movement and Acting. The performance featured Scobie Bathie who acted out the scene.
Bathie portrayed a first-grade teacher who was being interviewed about one of her students who identified as transgender. Throughout the performance, Bathie stepped into the role of a teacher who cared about all of her students making sure everyone felt included.
Overall, the performance made the audience think about the inequalities some individuals face by touching on topics such as the lack of gender-neutral clothing for children and how people can be judged based on their sexuality.
Katy Datchler, a Ward two Representative on Grand Forks City Council, explained what intersectionality is and how the audience can become intersectional allies.
Datchler described intersectionality as multiple aspects of an individual’s social and political identities. She then expanded on the idea of discrimination that comes from intersectionality.
By sharing her story of becoming part of Grand Forks City Council, the audience was able to gain a better understanding of privilege and how to combat it by becoming an intersectional ally.
Datchler asked for the audience to recognize one’s full identity the next time they meet someone new to avoid discrimination and intolerance.