Connections and Disconnections: Experiences at the Global Action Fair

Attendees speak about 2019's Global Action Fair!

By Nicole O’Connell

On Tuesday, March 19, anyone walking into the Student Center would be met with paper footprints on the floor leading to the festivities of the Global Action Fair. Running from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the fair allowed a great deal of students to attend. This year’s theme was Global Connections and Disconnections.

In the Blue Lounge, members of the campus community were able to attend five-minute teach-ins by faculty speaking about topics applying to connection and disconnection. In an auditorium, audiences viewed short films of North African Amazigh cinema. In the Exhibit Area, others sat back and listened to student musicians or contributed to the apparel map, a collection of maps on the floor filled with clothing tags marking garments’ countries of origin.

Attendees came for different reasons and participated in different aspects, but many believed it was a rewarding experience. Here are their own words about the 2019 Global Action Fair.

Dr. Timothy Murphy of the Urban Studies Department was on the planning committee for the Global Action Fair.

“Global connections and disconnections, we decided to go with that theme this year because we are feeling that there is a lot of realization that this country is feeling disconnected, but at the same time we also realize how many different kinds of connections we can forge with people from all different parts of the world as well as different cultures. We’re thinking about connections as broadly as we can. Whether that’s how we connect with people or how we are disconnected from people. Is it disconnection from other people because of technology, due to economics, due to other people’s differences? We’re asking people to think about how they connect to different parts of the globe that might not always involve travelling abroad. Thinking about where you’re from. Most of us have an immigrant background, so how do we trace our roots? Where are we from? Where are we headed?”

Michelle Beaulieu is a Occupational Therapy graduate student as well as a grad assistant for the Urban Action Institute. She was welcoming guests to the Exhibit Area.

“My role here today is to help out between the Urban Studies Club and the Hunger Outreach Team. Right now I’m at a station that looks at the tags that are taken off of clothing and places them in the countries that they’re made to get a better understanding of how the world works. Most of our clothing is made in Asian countries because we get it at a cheaper price. Later I’ll be at an OT table with the Occupational Therapy Department to give our own spin on things, which is more of the health aspect.”

Albertha Poah, a junior criminal justice major, saw a poster for the fair and decided to stop by. She was also one of the attendees who contributed to the apparel map.

“I just heard about the fair today. I cut my clothes tag off and then I put it on there, placed it somewhere. Well, my coat was from Morocco, so I took the tag off and put it over there.”

Michele Bravo, a freshman public health and pre-nursing major, is another student who wasn’t planning to attend the fair, but found herself there all the same.

“I was actually doing a tour here; I’m a tour guide, so I was having students come through here. They were observing and I was telling them about it, but I didn’t really have much knowledge behind it. I think I would have come on my own. Even if I didn’t have the tour to go through here, I think I would have come on my own because I am from a different country myself so I thought it was pretty neat to see everything, especially the clothes and the tags.”

Other attendees at the fair didn’t just wander in; they had a purpose in attending. VPA major and senior Ian Simpson performed Jewish and Israeli music.

“I think we just want to give them a taste of a different culture and different languages and different places and how the music is different in different places in the world. There’s all these different types of musical aspects that we can break down and look at, but music is an inherently cultural phenomenon. Music both beholds as well as defines cultural communities and different communities produce different types of music. It’s one of many different ways we can capture culture in a little bubble and share it with other people and throw it at them. That’s what’s important to me.”

Matt Travers, a junior communications major, was another performer. He sang Russian and Hebrew pieces with the Chorale.

“I think it’s good to sing in different languages because it gets other cultures the opportunity to be represented, especially in America because it often gets crowded out by other cultures, if that makes sense.”

Many students in the Exhibit Area were impressed by the music they were hearing. Student Christi Berry remarked upon the music and her thoughts on the fair.

“It brings diversity, something that I think is very hidden on campus. I like the fact that they allow the singer to be out here where you can hear the music, instead of containing it. They are allowing the freedom of no walls to bring people together from all countries.”

Jonathan Moraes, a  junior urban studies major, was prepared to grow more knowledgeable from attending the fair.

“This is my first time at a Global Action Fair. My teacher was talking about it all week. I like how there’s music and people can just get involved with it being at the Student Center, so everyone knows where it is at. It seems welcoming. I think the music is a good add-on feature…I hope to take away how we affect other countries and how they affect us, in terms of clothes and food and trading. Not everything comes from the United States and we all contribute globally to the world.”

Dr. Adam Saltsman of the Urban Studies Department was another member of the planning committee.

“My hope is that students will take away that here in Worcester, we are global. We have people who have global connections, we have people who in many ways are impacted by the global. With this apparel map here, for example, that shows the ways in which, just in terms of the clothes we are wearing, we are connected to the lives of people who are making our clothes in factories in different countries around the world. My goal is for students to come away with questions with a view that they should be interested in what’s happening around the world and look beyond the borders of Worcester to think about how lives are connected around the world.”

Alondra Pichardo is a junior psych major. Though she did not have any words to share about her experience, she enjoyed checking out the different stations and was smiling throughout her time there.

While visitors to the Student Center were often confused upon encountering the clothing scattered on the floor, many took the time to thoughtfully participate in the activities of the fair, and like Pichardo, many smiles were seen among the attendees.

The Global Action Fair was sponsored by the International Programs Office, the Urban Action Institute, the Center for the Study of Human Rights, and the Urban Studies Department.

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