Why I Kneel

I spent yesterday kneeling outside in the 90-degree heat with over 100 other students in solidarity with the black community at Michigan and a specific Masters of Public Health student, Dana Greene Jr, who decided to kneel outside, facing the flag, until there was real promise for change.

Dana went outside to the middle of the Diag at 6am this morning with the intention of kneeling for as long as he could possibly stand to. He said in his letter to the President of our University, Mark Schlissel, “I will kneel in the Diag facing the flag in silent protest until there is nothing left in me.” This letter details the reasons he kneels and his feelings on the discrimination and marginalization that black people feel in our country. He says it better than I ever could:

“I am kneeling because we should be better than this. I am kneeling because I am tired of doing nothing. I am kneeling because I want this campus and this country to acknowledge a fact that I know to be true. We are not and have never lived by the idea of our founding that ALL men are created equal. I am kneeling because we our better than this.”

Today I knelt alongside him. I was out there for a mere 5 hours of the 16+ hours (he is still out there as I type this 16.5 hours after he started) he was standing up for the right for equality. I was blown away by several of the things I experienced today.

I went outside around 2:30/3pm. It was hot and the sun was beating down on everyone. Within about 5 minutes of kneeling, I was dripping in sweat. I was in a group of 20-30 members of my cohort from the School of Social Work. Almost instantly, organizers were around me passing out water, snacks, & cold paper towels. A few hours later, there were several rounds of pizza brought for the protestors. (By rounds I mean at least 8 boxes from 3 different pizza places!) People going in between classes were bringing packs of water bottles and bags of ice to hand out. The outpouring of support and love for Dana and the rest of us was so inspiring.

My evening class was moved outside. As students studying social work, in a class that is focused on diversity and social justice, none of felt it was right to sit in the classroom when we should be standing up for our field’s values just outside.

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Another moment came for me when around 7:30/8:00, the sun was setting and the Muslim students protesting with us gathered in a group for prayer. The entire Diag – normally a place of laughter, conversation and noise – fell completely silent for the next 15 minutes while they prayed. Tears were in my eyes, completely moved by the solidarity I felt in that moment among my fellow students.

IMG_3520I finally packed up my things and left around 9:30pm. Dana and more than 200 Michigan students, faculty and Ann Arbor community members were still out there kneeling, strong as ever. I left that Diag swelling with pride for the community that I am apart of here. I am proud of the amazing School of Social Work that I attend where my professors allow us to exercise our voices and use what we learn in the classroom in our community.

To Dana and the organizers, thank you for your bravery, your strength and your perseverance. Thank you for those who donated resources for all those kneeling. Thank you for those who were willing to have honest dialogue with us instead of yelling your disapproval and insults at us. Thank you to every student who was out there today. A lot of you were out there longer than me, and I admire you so, so much. We will continue fighting. We will stand up for what is right and what is deserved.



love trumps hate

It took me 24 hours to sit here and actually start typing something. I have felt so many things in the last 24 hours that I have become numb. I felt a lot of hope going into this. Living in a town like Ann Arbor and going to a school like the University of Michigan can give you a lot of confidence in the way our society is making progress. I am a double major in Psychology and Spanish – learning a lot about the world around me, through people and culture. I have a minor in the School of Social Work and am planning to go to Social Work school after graduation, learning about progression (and standstills) in society and how this affects every single person – how society takes someone’s rights and their dignity from them based on their race, gender, class, sexuality, etc.

Last night as there were 15 people in my living room following the live coverage of the election results – switching networks and comparing fact sites – there was a moment at around 1 am when the electoral college numbers were getting close enough to call it for red that I will never forget. Van Jones was speaking on how he was not sure how to explain this to children – to families of marginalized populations. In this moment, you could have heard a pin drop in the room. 15 people were stunned into silence, nothing but tears rolling down many of our faces. That is when I began to mourn. Yes, mourn.

I mourn for the LGBTQ friends and peers that I am so honored to know and love. For their fear of never being able to marry the one they love. Fear of being forced into conversion therapy to try to change the way they were born.

I mourn for my Muslim American friends being called terrorists on their walk to class. For those women and girls afraid to wear their scarves outside out of fear of hate crimes.

I mourn for the Mexican American girls I worked with this summer who told me that they were terrified that if this man won, their parents would be deported.

I mourn for those struggling with disabilities of any kind – mental or physical. Because this man believes that these individuals (myself included as one that suffers from mental illness) do not deserve affordable access to the care we need. This man also mocks those with disabilities in order to spark more hate.tumblr_m0r6v1kGTm1rrr4b5o1_500.jpg

I mourn because I am dedicating my life to social work – to serving the disadvantaged, marginalized and ignored – and that this is the reality I face going into this field. I dedicate my life to being the change. I dedicate my endurance and my passion to making the world a better place for every one.

I mourn for the 9-year-old who told me today that she would rather die than have this man as president, because he hates her family. For the 6-year-old who told me she was sad, because she doesn’t believe she could ever be president now.  For you both, even though you will never read this, I want you to know that we are all here for you to support you and lift you up.

So here I am as an American citizen, sad that this is what the outcome of this election is, but proud of the steps the Clinton campaign took to making this world a little closer to equal, because we are the next generation. I have done my mourning. The weapon that we have – the dreaded millennials – is love, and with that weapon, I am ready to fight.


“Yes, I speak Spanish.”


This was my first week at my summer internship at Alternatives for Girls (AFG) in Detroit. AFG “helps homeless and high-risk girls and young women avoid violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation, and helps them to explore and access the support, resources and opportunities necessary to be safe, to grow strong and to make positive choices in their lives.” I am interning with the Prevention program at the organization, which serves girls ages 4-18 who are at risk of pregnancy, gang involvement, abusing drugs or alcohol and school truancy. We engage them through after-school programs, a teen leadership program, and a summer camp. In addition, I was lucky enough to receive a Internship Funding Grant from the Community Action and Social Change department in our School of Social Work for this experience. As a part of receiving this grant, I will be blogging about my experience weekly through the end of July.


My first week has been a whirlwind of a lot of names, activities, learning and smiles. I have worked with the elementary school girls and the middle school girls in the after school programming. My first day coming in, I was obviously very nervous in a room with a ton of people (and kids) I didn’t know. I wasn’t really sure what to do or how to get started. One little girl, Maria* showed up with her mom and started crying, not wanting to stay while her mom left. One volunteer was already trying to get her to come play with the other girls, but when I heard her mother speaking Spanish to her (the majority of the girls live in “Mexicantown” in Detroit and speak Spanish with their families at home and most speak Spanish in their classes at school), I decided to intervene and see if I could help. “Hola, chica. Me llamo Sydney. ¿Cómo te llamas?” Maria’s ears perked up at the sound of something she understood. “Estoy nerviosa también. Este es mi primer dia aquí. ¿Quieres colorear conmigo?” She nodded and I brought her over to the table with some crayons and printed coloring sheets and we chatted about her school day while we colored together. Using my skills to make valuable connections has been such a great part of this experience so far.

Most of my time was spent helping with multiplication homework and herding little kids into rooms for arts and crafts and stories. We learned about animals this week – tigers, bunnies and butterflies. We had a few meltdowns over lost tiger tails and broken bunny ears, but all in all, we did pretty well with the elementary programming and I had a lot of fun.

There was a moment during craft time that I will really never forget. One girl, Olivia*, sitting next to me was talking to me about her week at school while we worked on our butterflies. After a few minutes, she told me that when she got home today she was going to see her dad. “He’s getting out of jail today!” she told me. “Well I’m very happy that you will get to be with your dad.” “He’s been in jail for six years and I missed him a lot every day.” – Now after jump starting my passion for social work in the justice system, working with juveniles, this conversation really hit home. An hour later, I got to watch eight-year-old Olivia run outside and hug her dad for the first time in six years. It was a really great feeling to experience that, and knowing that she trusted me enough (after meeting me less than an hour before) to share her feelings with me was really comforting.


Working with the middle schoolers was a little more in depth than the elementary school girls. My first day, we taught a sex ed lesson – talking about puberty (Oy vey!). I was so impressed with how mature the girls were and the really great questions that they asked. The next day, they were practicing their Mexican indigenous dance for their end of the year performance at the end of the month. They were really interested in learning, and that was really cool to see. Being the older sister of a middle schooler, I know that many kids that age wouldn’t think that was cool. These girls are already teaching me a lot about the culture of this city and just how to show compassion and I’ve only known them for three days.

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*Names have been changed for confidentiality purposes.