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Tunnel of Oppression gives insight on poverty in U.S.

by Brianna Bush - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Mar 5th 2019 10:00 pm

In a world made up of class systems, it is often difficult to navigate the issues that are part of each economic background. The College at Brockport makes an effort to showcase the harsh reality of the world with Tunnel of Oppression. The event was held from Tuesday, Feb. 26 to Thursday, Feb. 28 in the Seymour College Union Ballroom. 

Tunnel of Oppression is an interactive event that different clubs on campus set up, where students and faculty can walk through makeshift rooms and “experience” different types of oppression. Each club participating created a different “room” that went along with what its club was based upon.

The English Club came together to set up tables; each table had a different kind of oppressed author with their books displayed. There was a table for women writers, writers of color and LGBTQ writers. Each table also had descriptions and pictures of the writers on a poster board. 

Brockport’s Habitat for Humanity constructed its room reflecting childhood homelessness. The room was filled with garbage, scraps of paper, metal scraps, shopping carts and tarps. The club also got together to create signs out of cardboard with statistics about homeless children. This year’s room was similar to last years room which depicted homelessness in general. One of the statistics read, “children make up 33 percent of the homeless population.”

“This year our theme was childhood homelessness, and we came up with this idea because Habitat works to raise the property value of cities and provide housing for low-income families, and homelessness is an issue we work to end,” Habitat for Humanity President, Caitlyn Roden said.    

Graduate Assistant Christal Dewberry, commented on the percentage of homeless children and how it is impacting the community.

“It’s a huge issue in this area, especially in the Rochester area,” Dewberry said. “Child poverty is through the roof, especially for people of color.”

Dewberry, along with two other graduate assistants, worked with the clubs to make sure they were doing their best to make it as impactful as they could. Something they did differently this year was take pictures to use as an example for the following years. Dewberry said the goal is to have both a visual and interactive representation of the oppression, not just a laptop sitting on a table.

The Tunnel of Oppression is not only an experience for those who have walked through it, but also for the members of the clubs who set up their rooms. Events Coordinator for the African Student Union (ASU) Imani Coaxum discussed her experience with the event.

“My experience was very enlightening,” Coaxum wrote in an email. “The night that I came in to set up, I saw so many different rooms covering many different topics of oppression and it made me realize how fortunate we are to have what we have.”

ASU’s room was titled, ‘“Good hair” versus “Bad hair”: A Conflicting Standard of Beauty in the Black Community,” which Coaxum explained as “something very specific as opposed to homelessness, which can be broad.”

Other than ASU and English Club, 11 other clubs and organizations took part in the event, each with a different oppression. The Public Health Club depicted “Faces of Abuse,” Gender Equity Movement represented feminism and Military Appreciation and Support Club created a room that gave perspective on “Veterans Vision.” The Hands Speak’s room was “Separation from the healing world,” Honors Club’s room was “Higher Education is a Privilege or a Right?” Rotaract depicted Vaccine Accessibility, Pi Kappa Phi represented people with disabilities, Brockport Swing Dance Society showed “Discrimination in Swing Dance/Ableism.” The Office of Community Development chose the oppression of “Voter Suppression,” Environmental Club based its room on environmental injustice and Residential Life depicted “Housing Disparities.”

Due to the severity and the sensitivity of the topics the college provided counseling if needed. Coaxum had some comments on the way that the event is run each year.

“Students should have some knowledge of what rooms and topics they will be exploring before the actual event,” Coaxum wrote. “That way students can choose which ones they resonate with more and even draw other students to attend as well because many are unaware of what Tunnel of Oppression is and what it has to offer.”

If there are students that are experiencing any type of discrimination or oppression, they can reach out to any of the support programs that The College at Brockport has to offer. 


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