Activism necessary for ‘the greater good’

Maria Serrano/Contributing Writer

After months of Hollywood sexual harassment scandals, celebrities arrived at the 2018 Golden Globes dressed in black and tweeting #WhyWeWearBlack to show solidarity with Times Up, an anti-sexual harassment group.

The organization, CNN reports, was formed after The New York Times reported on allegations made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein back in October 2017. But while the celebrities message may have reached a larger audience, it’s important to remember that advocacy starts at home, according to three members of the FIU community.

Rito Altheme, a building manager at BBC, is Haitian-American. For him, activism is an important social duty, and is one he actively participates in, particularly when it comes to political matters such as immigration laws. As a Haitian-American he feels that immigration laws, at times, may be unfair for certain groups of people.

One of his current concerns, he said, is the termination of the Temporary Protected Status for different countries such as Haiti.

“I’ve been very verbal about TPS, like I mentioned I’m Haitian-American and I actually have family members who are here on TPS and are worried whether they’re gonna be able to stay in this country or not,” Altheme said.  

However, for Merveline Nelson, a junior public relations major, advocacy is speaking for those who can’t.

“It doesn’t really have to necessarily even have to do with me. It would just be me, advocating for others, who as a marginalized person, I am identifying with them,” Nelson said.

Felons having their basic right to vote, as well as other pressing issues like abortion, she said, has driven her to protest.

On the other hand, although she has never taken her demonstrations to the streets, Daniela Jimenez, a senior majoring in psychology, understands her rights as an activist but doesn’t see herself actively advocating for something unless it had to do with supporting pro-life.

Activism also comes with potential consequences, both in personal and professional life, and is something all three university members believe is not talked about enough.

But the reward, Jimenez said, outweighs the dangers.

“I’m not worried about that, at all,” Jimenez said. “I mean, I think I’m advocating for essentially the greater good.”

For those passionate about a certain subject, Nelson recommends joining an organization that focuses on advocating for your particular topic. Nelson herself is a member of the university’s Student Alliance for Prison Reform.

This social justice organization, according to FIU’s website OrgSync, is an established national network of students who support initiatives to bring about change in the criminal justice system via advocacy, education, and service.”

Being vocal, making signs, participating in rallies and signing petitions are just some of the ways students can advocate, but students, Altheme said, need to make sure they’re doing it in a controlled and safe way, not breaking the law or engaging in destruction of property.

And protesting in silence, such as in the 2018 Golden Globe is unequivocally life-changing for any and every audience.

Nelson herself owes her passion to activism to social media.

“It started, in theory, in seeing everything like in social media, saying ‘wow it’ll be cool to be a part of that’ and so all it took for me is to just find an organization that have their calls that I agree with and, so now I’m just like out there and I get in my car and just go participate,” said Nelson.


Feature image by Selene Basile/PantherNOW.

Image depicts students protesting the remodeling of the Nature Preserve back in 2016.