BY SOPHIE KEEFE, NEWS EDITOR
Carol Rojas addressed an attentive crowd in the Marshall room of Christensen Center on Monday, Oct. 9. “Patriarchy is omnipresent,” she said. “Under these conditions, our country cannot be democratic.”
Rojas flew from Colombia to Minneapolis for a series of interactive workshops. Sponsored by Witness for Peace (WFP), an organization that works closely with the Feminist Antimilitarist Network (FAN) along with Augsburg Center for Teaching and Learning, Rojas led a discussion about education and intersectional organizing in an environment of increasing violence in post-accords Colombia.
A mixed group of students, faculty and neighborhood families spent the evening participating in a series of interactive workshops centered on recognizing and dealing with conflict. Rojas emphasized the importance of asking questions and how crucial it is to get to know and understand the people around you.
“It’s important to know who’s in front of you, side to side of you,” Rojas said, “you must know this to know yourself.”
Next, participants engaged in a series of one-on-one conversations with fellow participants based on questions. What issues do we acknowledge in the United States? Do we expect change? How can we personally contribute to change? Is it important to recognize these questions? To Rojas, it certainly is.
“To see is to recognize is to change. If we recognize, we illuminate,” she said.
Illuminate, she did. In her home country, militarization is present in everyday practices. It is something you see walking down the street. Young men join or are enlisted into groups such as the narco-paramilitar y mafia which then becomes his whole life. An overwhelmingly male military presence contributes to an extremely patriarchal society.
While living this day-to-day, Rojas ref lected on her own skills and pondered how she could possibly provide something for these young people to cling to that was not violence and oppression — or inspire people to fight for change. Her answer? Education.
Her decision has allowed her to travel all over the world in order to teach young people, especially young people of color, that change starts with an individual decision. A willingness to dismantle systems of oppression is all it takes to put personal skills to use, and that is why Rojas enjoys spreading her ideas to students.
Her message was not lost on the large group of first-year students that made up a section of the audience at Monday’s event. This group of strong-minded young women displayed that they were not unaware of systems of oppression in the United States, and they hoped to help precipitate the change.
“It is inspiring to meet first years who are excited to take Augsburg by storm, to make change,” said Bethany Keyl, an Augsburg upperclassman.
This article first appeared in the Friday, October 13, 2017, Edition of The Echo.