The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday February 1st

UNC student groups reflect on Orlando and togetherness

Soumaya Lansari (left), a junior global studies and sociology major, Ayesha Faisal (middle), a junior computer science major, and Safa Ahmed, a first-year media and journalism major look at art being auctioned at the Art and Welcoming Night on Tuesday. The proceeds from the auction will go to a fund for the victims of the Orlando shooting.
Buy Photos Soumaya Lansari (left), a junior global studies and sociology major, Ayesha Faisal (middle), a junior computer science major, and Safa Ahmed, a first-year media and journalism major look at art being auctioned at the Art and Welcoming Night on Tuesday. The proceeds from the auction will go to a fund for the victims of the Orlando shooting.

The UNC Muslim Students Association, LGBTQ Center and several other student organizations co-hosted the event Tuesday.

Aisha Anwar, engagement coordinator of special projects at Carolina Performing Arts, said the event was inspired by an event she attended at Duke University following the Orlando shooting. She said the event brought together the queer and Muslim communities at Duke.

Anwar said the objective of the Art and Welcoming Night was to bring people together and create conversations about intersectionality and identity.

“I thought this was a moment in which our humanity should rise above all of that, and we shouldn’t necessarily be clinging to all of our corners and identities in a fashion where we’re saying, ‘well you’re against us, and we’re against you’ and things like that,” Anwar said.

“We should definitely cling to our identities in a way that brings us together.”

The event featured a silent auction of art created by current and former UNC students. The proceeds went to a GoFundMe account for families of the victims of the Orlando Shooting.

Each table had discussion questions for the attendees to work on together. Videos of spoken word poetry was also shown to start conversation.

Other host organizations included the Campus Y, Checked Out, Carolina Hispanic Association, Sexuality and Gender Alliance, Carolina Advocating for Gender Equality and Muslims for Social Justice.

Terri Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ Center, said the event allowed students to acknowledge identities beyond their own and brought together students who might not normally mix.

“I think one of the things that we are always mindful of in the work that we do is approaching it from an intersectional social justice lens and being cognizant of all the multiple forms of marginalization that people experience, particularly if they have multiple marginalized identities,” Phoenix said.

Leaders from each organization gave introductions, which were followed by a moment of silence for the Orlando shooting victims. Participants then separated for dinner and a guided discussion.

Stephen Krueger, head of Checked Out, the diversity group of the school of information and library sciences, said the organizations hope this is the start of long-term communication rather than an independent event.

“I feel like we all get stuck in our own groups in whatever way, whether it’s social or cultural, and that’s definitely one of the factors in a lot of the violence we keep seeing,” Krueger said.

“So, if we could come away from this and from future events like this with just understanding people a little better and forming connections between groups that transcend the superficial divisions that break us up a lot of the time.”

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