By Valery Jorgensen, Guest Writer
Students weaved through the Anderson University Center Chris Knutzen Room last Friday to participate in the Tunnel of Oppression.
“Wow” was all sophomore Tiana Wamba could say upon exiting the tunnel.
Subjects in the Tunnel of Oppression were not intended to be light and fun, but rather shocking and heartbreaking.
"I was unaware of a majority of the issues presented, but they are happening all around us, so I think it is good to be informed,” Wamba said.
Tunnel of Oppression is a walk-through of scenes covering oppression from around the world. Tunnel of Oppression had a planning committee, but students outside of the committee also do a large part of the work.
“The planning committee are really a container for all of the student organizations and student participants and docents that participate in the tunnel,” Nicole Juliano, programs coordinator of the Diversity Center and Tunnel of Oppression planning committee member, said.
Students from classes, organizations and different programs around campus volunteered to be a part of Tunnel of Oppression.
Some students worked to create scenes on topics of interest and acted out their scenes. Others volunteered to be student docents and walk groups through the tunnel on Friday.
“Docents in Tunnel of Oppression lead the way through the tunnel and explain a little bit about what each scene is about,” sophomore Amanda Brasgalla, said. “We are also helpers in case [students] feel overwhelmed with feelings.”
Juliano said about 40 students worked as docents this year.
“These are issues that I think a lot of people are unaware of,” Brasgalla said. Tunnel of Oppression “opens their eyes. I went last year, and I really enjoyed it, so I wanted to help do that for the rest of my community.” Brasgalla said that is why she volunteered.
“I am just always impressed with how PLU students engage with challenges around social justice,” Juliano said.
Tunnel of Oppression “did not disappoint,” first-year attendee Sonja Schaefer said. “I thought it was informative and really well put together.”
Scenes portrayed topics ranging from sexual assault in the military and Pacific Lutheran off-campus parties to terms such as Parkland Youth (PY).
Oppression of movement, female beauty around the world, gender-neutral housing, deportation and others also featured. With such a wide variety of topics, students were able to learn about many different types of oppression.
Isamar Henriquez, a diversity advocate, worked as a docent and contributed to the deportation scene. Some of the scenes in Tunnel of Oppression “imply the aftermath of what [oppression] happened, and I think not a lot of people focus on it. I think that is one of the biggest benefits of tunnel,” Henriquez said.
The deportation scene was composed of two sections. In the first room, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official comes up and asks to see two people’s identification and one of them does not have it on them. As a result, the ICE officer arrests and presumably deports the individual.
The second room focused on the aftermath of deportation when you hear the deported people speak about why they were deported and what makes them American.
Scenes ranged from passive with audio playing, to interactive with cards and acted-out scenes. The scene focusing on Gender-Neutral Housing had a booth where attendees would get an identification card and walk up to apply for housing. This showed how the housing process may be different based on the identification on your card and the oppression some students may feel.
One scene that stood out to Wamba was on sex trafficking. The scene has statistics posted on the walls. One statistic stated Seattle has the third most child prostitutes in the nation. It also stated that safe and secure housing for youth affiliated with pimps and gangs is not available in Seattle or the state of Washington.
“I never knew that Seattle had this problem. It is scary to know. I want there to be help for the youth involved in sex trafficking,” Wamba said.
At the end of the tunnel was a graffiti wall where attendees could write their responses to what they had just experienced. Some would write just one word while others wrote more.
Following the tunnel, organizers encouraged students to attend a debriefing session with a facilitator, which covered why each student came and what stood out to each student. Facilitators also answered questions and told students what they could do with this new information.
“It was a great experience,” Henriquez said.