Students Unite

By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

Most know the kaleidoscope as a toy that captures the imaginations of the young and stirs pangs of nostalgia in adults. Peering into one is an optically magical experience: With the twist of the hand, individual fragments of color mingle to create brilliant and infinitely diverse patterns.

But the kaleidoscope also can be a powerful symbol through which social justice can be better understood. Like the individual flecks of color, each human, too, is unique. And when we come together through observation, action, and self-reflection, we can build a bold, harmonious, and ever-evolving society.

This is the spirit that is manifested through the work of Kaleidoscope, the student organization that encourages Lafayette community members to actively promote intercultural exchange and explore issues of multiculturalism, equity, and inclusion. Students who participate in Kaleidoscope challenge each other to think critically about their communities and current events, and facilitate campus-wide conversations about these sensitive issues. Get to know some of the group members and the initiatives they are personally spearheading.

Lauren Phillips-Jackson ’21

Major: Anthropology and sociology

Her work: Created a public, community-generated list of resources for learning about and contributing to racial justice—including suggested readings, tips for taking action, links to organizations, information about issues affecting communities of color, and more.

Her impact: “I wanted to ensure there were ways for people who weren’t already embedded in social justice organizations to join the conversation and feel like they could build on their knowledge without feeling guilty for not already having the basics down. Plus, I wanted to make sure whatever I created amplified the voices of people of color. The hope is that people will continue to add to it, and it will continue to grow and reflect the voices of the communities it ends up in.”

Anna DeVault ’21

Her work: Hosts “Scoping It Out,” a podcast committed to engaging the Lafayette community in conversations about the transition to a remote world in light of the pandemic. The first episode discusses how COVID-19 disproportionately affects already disadvantaged communities.

Her impact: “In a time when being anti-racist is so crucial, it’s important to take responsibility to educate ourselves about not just race, but all facets of social justice. ‘Scoping It Out’ is a great place to start. We seek to not only educate, but also apply the information to our specific community and make it personal to each and every listener. It’s a great way to increase ease of access to social justice education in our community and increase our outreach.”

From left to right: Sharon Engel ’22, Kelsey Moum ’21, and Angelique Taveras ’21

Majors: Environmental studies (Engel); government & law and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies (Moum); history (Taveras)

Their work: Teamed up to create a virtual version of Social Justice 101, a program presented at orientation each year in which first-year students are led in thoughtful discussions about racism, sexuality, intersectionality, reformation, and advocacy.

Their impact: “Matters relating to race and sexuality are things that every Lafayette student should become comfortable speaking about in order to make a positive impact on our campus. Our hope is that first-years not only get to meet some of their peers, but are also able to step out of their comfort zone in a controlled and low-stakes environment. We hope they’re able to learn how to have these conversations, and they recognize there are many opportunities to continue these discussions after orientation.” —Engel

Rachel Cox ’21

Major: Government & law and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies

Her work: Wrote Kaleidoscope’s statement of solidarity in support of victims who spoke out about their experiences of racial injustice and sexual assault on campus.

Her impact: “I wanted our statement to reflect our gratitude for students who had the courage to share such difficult experiences. I wanted all Lafayette campus members to know they are heard, their experiences are validated, and we stand by them. This statement was a way for myself and Kaleidoscope to condemn the issues their experiences exposed, and to outline how we will work to better the community. It is imperative that, as a community, we hold ourselves accountable, take steps for future education, and support those who are struggling in their educational journey.”

Savanna Touré ’21

Major: Neuroscience pre-med

THEIR work: Co-founded Freedom Fighters DC, an activist organization that advocates for racial justice and Black liberation by organizing protests and other community events. In addition, Touré recently joined fellow students in efforts to make Lafayette a more inclusive and equitable community through an initiative entitled “Dear Lafayette College.”

THEIR impact: “Freedom Fighters DC provides resources (menstrual, baby, and hygiene products, food and water, and books) to underserved Black communities while raising awareness of racism, the housing crisis, and discrimination in Washington, D.C., and across the nation. I’ve been on the ground organizing protests and demonstrations. I also organized a 48-hour campout and a vigil to give representation to Black women, Black trans women, and non-binary people who have been killed due to police, sexual, and gun violence.”