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Event inspires empathy, advocacy

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Freshman anthropology major K’lema Burleson participates in a group activity during “In her Shoes,” a women’s empowerment event Monday. Participants were grouped as men, women and gender fluid, then asked to tell the other groups something about themselves. This activity was designed to demonstrate listening and letting others know they’ve been heard. / photo by Alexandra Arkley

Freshman anthropology major K’lema Burleson participates in a group activity during “In her Shoes,” a women’s empowerment event Monday. Participants were grouped as men, women and gender fluid, then asked to tell the other groups something about themselves. This activity was designed to demonstrate listening and letting others know they’ve been heard. / photo by Alexandra Arkley

Taylor Bolanos
LV Life/Health Editor

Empathizing with strangers may just be as easy as walking in someone else’s shoes.

Four students hosted “In Her Shoes,” a women’s empowerment event, for Assistant Debate Coach and Mock Trial Head Coach Thomas Allison’s class, Advocacy: Exposure to Social Justice, Monday night in the Campus Center Ballroom.

Sophomore speech communication majors Deborah Gonzalez and Kyerra Green, freshman criminology major Maria Vargas and senior speech communication major Josue Rivera had planned the event since February.

The class focuses on building advocacy for a cause while teaching core values: persuasion, networking, marketing and planning. “In Her Shoes,” is just one of several projects Allison’s class has worked to complete this semester.

“‘In Her Shoes’ means empathizing with a woman trying to put yourself in her shoes at least,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a whole different world.”

The three-hour-long event featured Director of Multicultural Affairs Daniel Loera, Director of First Generation and Mentoring Programs Nancy Reyes and University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner, who guided the men, women and gender fluid groups through discussion about misconceptions and issues each group faces.

With help from the House of Ruth and Her Campus La Verne, the “In Her Shoes” team said they hoped examining gender identities and the struggles women encounter would help men understand and empower women.

“We’re trying to create place where people can talk,” Vargas said. “Males can hear females’ stories and females can hear males’ perspectives.”

After an explanatory sideshow from the team, Loera and Reyes led students through activities to explore communication strategies, understanding of gender and understanding others’ identities. They emphasized that they room was a safe space for honest discussion, free of censorship and judgment from other participants.

“You don’t have to come as the expert in anything but your own life experiences,” Loera said. “We’re just simply asking you to share what life in your own shoes has been.”

The first two activities, in which students moved to different sides of the ballroom or stood up if sentences applied to them, allowed for understanding and respect for the final activity, in which students separated into three groups for discussion, with help from Wagoner, and then returned to voice their thoughts to the other groups.

Each group shared what the other two groups should know about their identity. The women’s group opened the discussion.

“Would you say the things you told me to your daughter,” sophomore criminology major Keyera Collins said. “If you can’t talk to a lady, then we can’t talk at all.”

The gender fluid group spoke next. Freshman anthropology major K’lema Burleson, a student in Allison’s class, addressed the room.

“We’re not confused,” Burleson said. “We know who we are. It’s just trying to get you guys to understand.”

The men’s group spoke and Rivera, one of the team members, gave an apology for misunderstanding other gender groups.

“I have sisters and a mom, Rivera said. “Us men, sometimes we forget to support women.”

Rivera said this project helped him understand his weaknesses and what he lacks when trying to understand women.

While the truth about women’s issues may be hard to face, Rivera said that women are right about their own issues and should be empowered.

After empowering other gender identities, Reyes said it is important to lift them up, because the conversations should continue long after the first discussion.

“We have to stick together,” Reyes said.

Taylor Bolanos can be reached at taylor.bolanos@laverne.edu.

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