“This is what America looks like! Show me what America sounds like!”
I heard the chants approaching as I approached the 38th Street bridge. This was who we were looking for. The Solidarity March, put together by students in the wee hours after it became clear that Donald Trump would win the presidency. As the group streamed by, chanting, umbrellas outstretched overhead, I reached my hand out to a few who I knew and eventually, my dog Primo and I jumped in and I started chanted along.
“We will not be silent! Not my president! We will not be silent! Not my president.”
I graduated from Penn in 2005 and have worked here full time since, in several capacities for the Creative Writing Program, as an instructor, and as a Faculty Fellow at Hill and Sansom West. I have aligned myself closely with causes and communities I’ve identified with, like Penn First and the Kelly Writers House. While my professional life has taken place here entirely, it is not because I am a “Quaker for Life” with an unwavering affinity for this university. If anything, I have stayed because I want Penn to be better.
This week, Penn was better. We are a campus largely in mourning. Honestly, I don’t know that the vibe would have been much different had Donald Trump not been an alum – after all, we would have heard him loud and clear regardless. But perhaps because of his and his children’s connection to our school, our home, his remarks about the disabled, about women, about Muslims, Mexicans, and others have cut us that much deeper.
We all know that we have become far too good at the Penn Face, at hiding our feelings as a means to soldier on with work, emails, exams, and meetings. While I’m sure some around campus wore their Penn Face after the election was called, in my own corners of campus, I saw more people than ever before willing to show their vulnerabilities, to express their distress: the group marching and chanting; the individuals who later their stories at Houston Hall; the students who met with me today because they felt like checking in, one who said she wasn’t sure she felt safe because of her religious and cultural affiliation. We must keep these conversations going, individually and collectively, here at Penn, and beyond.
As someone who has worked here since graduating and who lives on campus, I don’t get a rush in thinking about my Penn Pride. But watching us these last few days, as we reach for each other, organize, and speak out, through my disbelief and sadness, I beam a little bit. I’m glad I get to march alongside.