Photo campaign launched to heal community after hate crime

A student is photographed in solidarity with the student targeted by a hate crime last month. Christian Ruhl/Photo Editor
A student is photographed in solidarity with the student targeted by a hate crime last month. Christian Ruhl/Photo Editor

On Nov. 2, Aseel Abulhab ’15 and Salma Mohammed ’16 sent an email to the student body, addressing the poster vandalism that was discovered in a Paresky stairwell last month. They acknowledged that the crime had been addressed legally and formally by the administration and that the community has been supportive, but they said that this response wasn’t enough to address a crime of this gravity.

“When the identity of a member of our community is attacked in this way, we all need to take part in affirming this person and their manifold identities,” the email read. “All students need to be involved in the process of taking an active role in supporting and protecting one another’s identities.”

Abulhab and Mohammed initiated a photo campaign as a concrete way to express their desire to affirm diverse identities. As part of the project, they have asked students to have their picture taken and to say something about their identity, using the quote from the defaced “I Am Williams” poster.

Abulhab and Mohammed, friends of the person depicted in the defaced “I Am Williams” poster, came up with the project independent of any official organization. The project is receiving technical support from the Photography Club.

“We want people to know that this is something just run by students,” Mohammed said in an interview. “It’s not affiliated with a student group or with the administration. It’s for everyone.”

Abulhab and Mohammed expressed their hope that students, faculty and staff would participate. Two photography sessions were held yesterday and last Friday, and two more are scheduled for Nov. 14 and Nov. 18.

“Our ideal goal is 500 pictures,” Abulhab said. “That sounds like a lot, but it’s only a quarter of the student body. So far, we haven’t been strong in numbers, but the people who have come in are strong in spirit and support.”

Abulhab and Mohammed are coordinating with the administration and the Chaplain’s Office to rehang a new copy of the defaced poster on Claiming Williams Day, which will take place on Feb. 5. Although they do not yet know exactly where the photo will be hung, they want to display the original poster alongside the photos taken as part of their campaign.

“We encourage people to participate,” Abulhab said. “If you don’t want to participate, grab one of us and have a conversation if you feel strongly about the campaign or the incident. If you want to support in other ways, that’s welcome too. I hope it creates some conversations, especially among [first-years] in places like entries.”

“We all have wonderful, complex identities,” she added. “This isn’t just a response to the incident. It’s also a call to respect one another. If we can achieve that, even on a small scale, that would be powerful and we will have accomplished our goal.”

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