Western Washington University’s Blue Group held its first Undocumonth in April 2022 to celebrate what joy means to undocumented people in terms of resiliency, family and community.
Blue Group, the undocumented student group that provides support and advocacy to undocumented students, used to hold an Undocuweek. With students back on campus this spring, Blue Group decided to turn Undocuweek into a month-long celebration.
Within the span of Undocuweek, there are multiple events held that are celebrated by schools across the country, especially in California where there is a majority of undocumented students due to the larger Hispanic population.
“The month or the week is centered on events that provide resources for undocumented students and events that celebrate the success of undocumented students,” Chair of Blue Group, Silvia Leija said. “It also gives space for allies to kind of examine their existence around undocumented students, whether they realize they're around undocumented students or not.”
The first event of the month was a day of action called Conversations for Change, where Blue group alumna, Victoria Matey, gave a speech about and for undocumented students. Matey helped build the Ethnic Student Center and hosts the Shot of Truth Podcast.
The next event, on April 15, had Dr. Lourdes Gutierrez Najera and Assistant Professor Pedro Cameselle-Pesce of Latin American Studies leading a conversation with staff and administrators on how to create a safe environment for undocumented students.
“We had people from housing, the Honors Program, the Counseling Center and the Career Center, who came in to essentially talk about what is it the undocumented students are facing,” Leija said. “What is it that staff and faculty aren't seeing? And what is it that staff faculty can do for undocumented students?”
Along with the events, Blue Group still holds general meetings for club members. A meeting on April 13, was led by Historian and Secretary of Blue Group, Favio Guzman and Treasurer of Blue Group, Odalis Flores, where students got to create butterflies to put around the Ethnic Student Center that had sentiments of UndocuJoy, according to Leija.
The term UndocuJoy was made up by Blue Group for Undocumonth and it focuses on the joy of being a community among undocumented people and sharing the experiences of pain and uncertainty they go through as well as the achievements they can celebrate as undocumented people, she said.
“We made butterflies to put up around the [Ethnic Student Center] to show our presence and also to build solidarity,” Flores said. “It’s time to take up some space and show that we’re here on campus.”
Another club meeting was a collaboration with the Arab Students Association that had conversations about border solidarity.
The last event is a photo series created by Guzman on April 30. Alumni, undocumented alumni, current students, staff and faculty are all invited to get their pictures taken for the series and Leija will ask the attendees what Undocujoy means to them.
“I am just thankful to have a passion for photography, and to be able to use my gift to highlight something that is not usually seen,” Guzman said. “And being able to highlight a lot of students is going to bring a lot of joy and it's going to be definitely evident during the event.”
Photo series is something a lot of Ethnic Student clubs do to keep memories and combat student history erasure.
“It is really hard to have that undocumented community because not everybody in Blue Group is undocumented, not everybody who works in this office is undocumented, but we all have a relationship to undocumentedness,” Leija said. “And to that feeling of being othered for one reason or another. The photo series is about reminding people that we're here, we exist. That's a very popular refrain among undocumented people.”
All the effort put in by Blue Group for Undocumonth has not gone unnoticed, there is a sense of joy and pride in what the club has achieved in spreading awareness and getting people’s involvement, club member of Blue Group Ringo Renteria said.
Michelle Soi (she/her) is a reporter for The Front this quarter. She is currently a junior majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Journalism Public Relations. During her down time she likes to go out and try new restaurants or cafes, drive around with her friends, watch anime and read mangas.
Her Instagram is @michellesoi