Many students embrace support roles for peers in the wake of DACA repeal

By Jackeline Lizama

The day after Donald Trump was elected president, Rubi Franco Quiroz, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, was in a class where the professor was speaking about the election. He discussed how people lashing out on Trump supporters would not help anyone.

Quiroz was in tears during the discussion. She knew that the election would affect her life negatively. The professor saw how upset Quiroz was but continued speaking on the issue and openly asked the class, “How can we move forward and do things to support students like Rubi?”

“When she said that I was completely caught off guard and I couldn’t stay in the classroom any longer, and I left.” Quiroz said. “I didn’t feel like I had a place to go.”

From embarrassment to empowerment

After this experience, Quiroz felt it was her responsibility to make sure that nobody would have to experience the embarrassment and discomfort she had felt, or that anyone, especially DACA students, have a place to go to within the university.

For many people, the day after the 2016 presidential election meant end of the talk of politics for another term, but for others it meant their life could potentially change. Less than a year after the election, the Trump administration decided to repeal the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA.

Thousands of “Dreamers,” as DACA recipients are called, including Quiroz have expressed fear and worry about what will happen in the upcoming months now that DACA no longer exists.

“There is just so many people, so many brilliant people, so close to the end line and I feel like it is my job to really advocate for them and for myself,” Quiroz said.

Quiroz organizes many events at UNC-CH to raise awareness about DACA, and speaks on behalf of other DACA recipients. She also serves as a mentor and family instructor for Scholar’s Latino Initiative, an organization that helps Latino and Latina high school students excel in their academic careers.

She has been working very closely with the administration at UNC-CH for nearly two years to try to implement resources for undocumented students.

“Obviously with DACA being rescinded there’s a huge urgency around gaining more support for undocumented people in general, now more than ever,” Quiroz said

Scholarly success does not always translate to security

Quiroz came to the United States from the border town Reynosa in Tamaulipas, Mexico when she was 6 years old. She grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and has lived in the town for 15 years.

During Quiroz’s senior year of high school, she was in the top five percent of her graduating class. She was active in her school and her community, and did everything she was advised to do to get into a good college.

After everything she did in high school, she felt betrayed when applying to colleges was her biggest struggle. Quiroz applied to 27 colleges out of fear she was not going to get into any of them because of her immigration status.

“I never imagined that it was going to be that difficult for me to be sure that I was going to continue my education, which is all I had ever wanted,” Quiroz said.

Even though she has lived the majority of her life in North Carolina, she is still expected to pay for out-of-state tuition at UNC-CH. DACA has allowed Quiroz to work jobs within the university and receive the tax refunds that were being withheld from her before she had a social security number. Quiroz is able to have everything she owns and that her parents own under her name, but could essentially have it all taken away now that DACA has been rescinded.

Kristen Gardner met Quiroz during her first year at UNC-CH as a part of the Carolina Hispanic Association, where Quiroz was director of communications.

“She is a driven individual that has fought through various personal battles, but still makes fighting for others her first priority,” Gardner said. “I deeply respect her for her work especially in advocacy concerning immigrant rights.”

Quiroz also worked on the One State, One Rate campaign with Gardner to advocate for in-state tuition rates for undocumented students. “Advocacy work is always taxing and frustrating, but Rubi has been a dedicated leader over the years, never stepping down from the challenges,” Gardner said.

Devotion to the dream

Barbara Sostaita, a second-year UNC graduate student in religious studies, hosted an event with Quiroz called “DACA in Crisis” on September 18, just a few weeks after the DACA program was rescinded. It was meant to raise awareness and provide a safe space for undocumented students. The event filled the auditorium, with over 500 people in attendance. The event hosted a panel of speakers including a current undocumented student, an undocumented alumni student, and two lawyers from two different firms in order to educate and properly support DACA students.

Quiroz is dedicated to helping her community in any way she can. What keeps her motivated to continue speaking on this issue is the hope that perhaps someday she could help her own parents.

She has seen all the hard work and sacrifices her parents have made for her and she would feel like she would be failing them if she did not speak up. “As I have always told everyone, they are truly the heroes in this story,” Quiroz said.

“I feel like it’s now my duty to protect them and make sure that their lives aren’t at risk, and I can’t do that if my own is. I can’t protect them if I have no grounds to protect myself.”

Quiroz is graduating in May of 2018, and will be working at a job she is very passionate about at the Student Success Agency. She is committed to advocating for her fellow Dreamers now more than ever.

Edited by Jack Smith

Body positivity, intersecting identities and mangoes: a UNC event opens up dialogue

By Mimi Tomei

Anum Imran wore a scarlet hijab and a pinstripe sport coat, sleeves pushed up, with skateboard-style sneakers and high-waisted black jeans. She paced across the stage.

During her spoken word performance, she wove a narrative addressing racism, sexism and Islamophobia with images of cooking spicy dishes, juxtaposing identity and flavor.

Imran was joined by performers from cultural organizations like the UNC Arab Students Organization and performance-based groups like Blank Canvas Dance Company for Body Politics, an annual event in its fourth year that brings together performances to foster a conversation surrounding self-esteem, body image and identity.

Imran combined phrases of despair with hopeful ones, crafting metaphors that showed the conflicted relationship between parents and children through images like mangos. The snaps it elicited from the audience, responding to moving moments in the spoken word piece, roared with emotion despite their muted volume.

The event took place in the auditorium of the Sonja Hanes Stone Center for Black History and Culture. It was an evening of dance, music and discussion, but more than that, it was an evening of moving moments for people of many identities.

Imran wasn’t the only performer who addressed her many backgrounds. Harmonyx performed a set comprised entirely of covers of songs by black artists, from Michael Jackson to Andra Day. The performers, an a Capella group founded by UNC’s Black Student Movement, wore t-shirts with a black power fist grasping a microphone printed across the back.

Missing voices 

Though both of these groups were diverse in backgrounds and gender, the three panelists of the event acknowledged the importance of recognizing one major identity missing from both the panel and the conversation of body image as a whole – men.

Nicho Stevens, a member of UNC’s Student Hip Hop Organization, was a male performer in a program that featured more male performers than it drew in audience members. Stevens’ piece, interrupted only by the occasional siren-like screams of the oft-malfunctioning microphone, charted a course that included the impact of racially charged comments, identity and masculinity.

Stevens said hip-hop allows musicians to express emotions with something not found in other forms of expression such as conversation – freedom. This freedom in style, verse and rhythm lends itself to engaging conversations on emotional topics.

“It’s like reaching into your soul,” Stevens said.

Stevens discussed how challenging it can be for men to recognize and talk about vulnerability when society expects them to be strong, confident and unemotional.

Gillian Fortier, who helped organize the event, said intersectional identities can affect self-esteem and make it harder for people with mental health challenges to seek treatment. Fortier recognized that her gender makes her participation in these discussions more socially accepted.

Unpacking issues 

Attendees submitted questions throughout the performances via Poll Everywhere, an app more familiar to UNC-Chapel Hill students for its use in taking attendance at lectures than for an extracurricular event.

Caroline Holcomb, Emily Hagstrom and Marissa Butler, the three panelists, facilitated a conversation following the performances that meandered through issues, including self-care while being an effective advocate for others, as well as personal stories from both the audience and panelists.

With only one panelist of color, though, the group had to come to terms with privilege in their discussion of self-worth.

“I feel it is particularly important to consider identity and privilege when it comes to exploring body image because we all have different bodies, receive different messages from society, culture, etc. and have different experiences in childhood and in relationships that may affect how we see our bodies,” said Holcomb, a social worker with UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services. “And we must consider the unique intersection of all of these influences in order to reach a healthier, more accepting place within ourselves when it comes to body image.”

Remember to marvel

The evening started out with a Spotify playlist of empowering songs like Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star,” Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” and Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.” But these messages of self-love can fall on deaf ears when people don’t feel they can love themselves. Panelists, event organizers and audience members noted that body positivity can often involve telling people to be proud of their bodies and not take any grief from anyone who says otherwise – even if that person is themselves.

“Something in particular that struck me was the concept that you don’t always have to love your body,” Alexandra Smith, who attended the event, said. “You can just be content with it and that’s perfectly fine.”

Regardless of your identities, it’s important to marvel at the human body at a most basic, anatomical level, said Fortier, who is photo editor for Embody Carolina, an organization that trains students to support those with eating disorders.

Sometimes in the wave of body positivity, this appreciation for the innumerable chemical reactions, neural connections and cardiovascular processes it takes doctors four years of medical school to understand gets left behind – but Fortier summed it up in three one-syllable words.

“It does stuff.”

Edited by Janna Childers. 

Meet Shea Stanley: the funny first lady of We the Ladies

By Jessica Abel

In a small, low-lit classroom at UNC-Chapel Hill late on a Monday night, a group of women are gathered in a circle of desks, typing fiercely. Each one is focused on the script in front of her, not thinking, just writing.

They are here for a comedy workshop hosted by We the Ladies, a student comedy group devoted to increasing gender diversity in comedic writing and performing. The project is led in part by Shea Stanley, who began her college comedy career her first year on campus with the group False Profits.

Now a junior, Stanley splits her time writing for False Profits and guiding both amateur and established comedians with We the Ladies.

Tonight, she’s helping writers create colorful character scenes through a free writing exercise. The click-clacking of fingernails on keyboards carries down the hall as everyone spills their last ideas onto their pages.

“OK, that’s time,” Stanley says.

She looks up and surveys the room.

“Who wants to go first?”

There’s a moment of hesitation as the writers make eye contact and smirk at one another, holding back their thoughts.

And then, shyly, someone gives it a try.

“Angry astronaut at a strip mall.”

The room fills with giggles. Then come thoughts of how to make a full scene out of a bitter Buzz Aldrin type. It would have to take place in Florida, the writers agree. The only place where astronauts, strip malls and anger overlap is Florida.

This continues with dozens of ideas.

“Goofy dentist on a rooftop.”

“Bored zookeeper in Sacramento.”

“Envious therapist at a church.”

Stanley leads the group through their thoughts, crafting dialogue and scene ideas to help make art out of the creative skeletons. She offers advice, patience and laughs as the women collaborate into the night.

Finding her comedic footing

Before Stanley founded We the Ladies or began college comedy, the Charleston, South Carolina native first tried stand-up in a smaller venue. It was at her high school’s version of a talent show, a coffee house-style setup where students could jump on stage and try out new material.

Stanley chose to mock her childhood YouTube channel by flipping through a PowerPoint of her hairstyles in the videos.

“My hair was just really bad in it,” Stanley said. “Everyone was shocked. They were like, ‘Where’s your part? What’s happening?’”

She walked offstage to laughs feeling good about her performance.

What she didn’t realize was that she’d taken nearly half an hour to finish the joke.

“My teacher came up to me and said, ‘That was great. You were up there for twenty minutes,’” Stanley said.

Now, her comedy takes a much different approach. She’ll sit down with an idea, almost always the end of a joke, and work through the script backwards. She’ll write 30 percent of a scene, leave it, and then come back with an entirely new idea. She’ll stop what she’s doing to help another writer complete her vision before returning to her own work, re-inspired.

Stanley and Ellie Rodriguez, We the Ladies’ other co-founder, hold office hours at Linda’s bar on Franklin Street. The formal name is contrasted by the relaxed way Stanley treats writing. She’ll scope out a booth, order some fully-loaded Tater Tots and sit with whoever shows up to write and exchange ideas.

“It’s a good environment to pitch ideas, especially ideas that aren’t necessarily super funny to men,” Stanley said. “False Profits is pretty collaborative, and I love all my male friends in that, but there are some things that go over better in an all-femme group.”

Mary Amos, the comedian who pitched the angry Floridian astronaut sketch in Stanley’s workshop, agreed.

“I just haven’t been in a lot of groups that are all-femme. Other than, maybe, my household,” Amos said, laughing. “I think that’s why this is so nice.”

Funny off the clock, too

Though Stanley doesn’t use her housemates as a tester audience often, her friends got to know her comedy style quickly.

Katie Otto, who shared a suite in Koury residence hall with Stanley her first year, remembers meeting her future friend for the first time.

“It was funny from the beginning because Shea was under the impression that she had met me already, but she’d really met someone else who she thought was me,” Otto said. “She was so confused. She was like, ‘Who’s this stranger in my suite?’”

To this day, they have no idea who the impostor girl could have been, or if Stanley simply forgot what Otto looked like.

“Maybe she met my mom and thought it was me? I don’t know,” Otto said, smiling. “It’s our mystery.”

Otto was also there when Stanley first discovered False Profits. They went to a stand-up comedy workshop hosted by the group during the first week of school.

“We played improv games and just chatted,” Otto said. “And even from that, I could tell Shea had such a strong ability to create comedic timing and make others laugh.”

Stanley carried that lightheartedness back to the suite where she made their home a bit of a fun house.

On the windowsill of their bathroom, she kept a copy of the Communist Manifesto for decorative purposes. She referred to the suite as “The Commune” and to all her housemates as “Comrades.”

She kept a fish as the suite pet and mascot and named it “Fishgerald.” Once, over break, she forgot to bring Fishgerald home and panic-texted Otto and her housemates to be sure he was still swimming.

Before Stanley left to study in London last semester, she gave her housemate and best friend, Mary Beth, a semester survival guide as a Christmas present. It included Stanley’s best decision-making advice and tips to living without her comedian roommate.

Safe to say, her friends and fellow comedians are happy to have her back.

Punchlines with real impact

As Stanley gets ready for senior year, her priorities are to make We the Ladies as diverse as possible, and to raise more money for local charities. She chooses a different organization to benefit from every show. Last time she collected toiletries and money for the Compass Center, a non-profit committed to supporting victims of domestic abuse. This year, she’s hoping to collect diapers and funds for a rehabilitation center in the Triangle.

The combination of charity, diversity and comedy has resonated with the Chapel Hill community. For her last show, over 100 people came to support Stanley, We the Ladies and the Compass Center.

“The day of anything I’m hosting, I always think, ‘Well, no one’s coming. I’m going to show up, and it’s going to be pathetic,’” Stanley said. “But people started showing up early. They packed the place. It was amazing.”

This, no doubt, had to do with the great cause Stanley was supporting. But it was driven by the impact she’s personally had on the Chapel Hill community. People are captivated by her self-described loud laugh, her thoughtfulness, her ambition. It’s the key to We the Ladies’ success and her legacy at Carolina.

“Shea is so funny and has so much confidence,” Otto said. “She is great at making people smile. I’m so glad I got to live with her and get to know her.”

Edited by Lily Stephens