I had the opportunity to travel to Over-the-Rhine to participate in the Homelessness Awareness March put on by the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Having never participated in such an event outside of Miami and its immediate surroundings, I was curious as to what kind of situation I was getting myself into.
While I was feeling excited, I could not help being just a bit nervous about participating in a march — nervous my peers might see me as a political extremist and worried other marchers might be aware of the privileges I have had in my life and therefore question my very presence in the march.
I was surprised to find that many of the marchers were there for the same reasons that convinced me to go — that prevalent negative attitudes and misconceptions about the homeless and the poor in our society only deepen the issues we are facing and that there must be a general awareness about the structural component of homelessness and poverty in order to begin working to solve them. Without awareness of the systemic, institutional and structural barriers facing the homeless and the poor, the public often blames individuals for their situations and misses the complexities of the issues.
I feel too many Miami students miss out on experiential learning opportunities that might educate them and transform their perspectives about pressing social justice issues. While I now know the march was indeed more educational than political or radical, I do understand the hesitation of students in exploring issues they have not “touched” before.
However, I want to send the message to students that one can get involved at Miami and in Oxford, and one way to do so is through Hunger + Homelessness Awareness Week (H+HAW) happening this week on campus. By participating in just one event this week, students can deepen their understanding of these issues to a degree with which they are comfortable, and later may be inspired to delve deeper into such issues through service, activism and engaged citizenship.
At Miami, events such as H+HAW are great opportunities for students to take the first step in a transformational journey of their own, and I encourage the student body to get involved. For more info on H+HAW, please visit www.muohio.edu/HHAW.