Ethnic Studies supporters wear black and red for resistance, solidarity and power

Clothing expressed a united front of resistance at SF State this week amid campus marches supporting the College of Ethnic Studies.

Advocates of the cause donned black and red to support ongoing and increased funding of the College, its lecturers, classes and student services.

Black symbolized power, and the accents of red were a nod to the California Faculty Association’s demand for a raise, according to Berlin Macuixtle, an anthropology major who helped the student organizing committee mobilize the Feb. 25 rally. The Ethnic Studies Student Organization informed students and faculty in an email and Facebook post that participants should wear the colors as a sign of solidarity.

“A visual aspect is necessary to make a big impact,” Macuixtle said. “We agreed that black and red would not only represent us and the CFA, but the multitude of revolutions and radicals that have existed, such as Cesar Chavez, the Black Power movement of the ’60s and ’70s and Black Lives Matter now.”

Gabriela Segovia-McGahan, administrative analyst/specialist for the departments of American Indian studies and Latina/Latino studies for 15 years, said her father was part of the 1968 strike that caused SF State to create a separate college specific to ethnic studies programs.

Oscar Peña chants with students and faculty at the Seven Hills Conference Center before meeting with President Leslie E. Wong on Thursday, Feb. 25.

Oscar Peña chants with students and faculty at the Seven Hills Conference Center before meeting with President Leslie E. Wong on Thursday, Feb. 25.

“The big thing was wearing red and black back then,” Segovia-McGahan said. “The red and black meant fire and blood. It’s a way to show solidarity.”

The solidarity was apparent at the rally and made a big visual impact, according to sociology student Gary Pei, who wore the colors along with hundreds of other supporters.

“If everyone was wearing (a random) color, it’d be different than hundreds of people wearing the same colors,” Pei said. “You know that stands for something. Everyone’s really serious about their commitment, and they’re wanting to express themselves. Instead of saying, ‘This is for me,’ they’re saying, ‘This is for all of us.’”

The political statements extended beyond color to graphic printed T-shirts, flair pins and posters emblazoned with clenched fists. Latina/Latino Studies student Oscar Peña wore a shirt showcasing the phrase, “IT TAKES THE HOOD TO SAVE THE HOOD,” at the meeting with President Leslie E. Wong that preceded the Ethnic Studies rally.

“(The fist) is definitely a symbol for strength,” said Maddy Auble, an ESSO intern. “Right now, we’re in the position where we feel powerless — we’re fighting because people are making decisions without our consent. We want to fight that power structure and show President Wong that we have power.”

Jonathan Morales, SF State director of news and new media, said in an email that the administration welcomes student passion, but did not notice the collective fashion statement.

“Although I have not seen the T-shirts you are referring to, what I do know is that students at SF State have a long history of making their voices heard, and we welcome their energy and passion as they support their college,” Morales wrote.

The student organizing committee plans to host an upcoming event for students to decorate black shirts with red spray paint to make their point known, according to Sophia Wenzel, ESSO’s vice president.

Auble said many students plan to wear the colors proudly long after the struggle for Ethnic Studies funding subsides.

“This is a fight that isn’t over yet,” Auble said. “And even after it’s done, we want to continue that symbolism of solidarity on campus.”

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