By Julia Schemmer | UC Riverside
Interview with REIGNITE Co-Founder, Nushi Yapabandara
From August 11-14, hundreds of UC students gathered together for the annual UCSA Congress, under the name of the Student Organizing Summit. During the weekend, students chose two undergraduate campaigns, Reignite and SOS. Reignite, a campaign geared toward tackling systematic racism and the school-to-prison pipeline. The campaign has huge plans for the next two years, and we had the opportunity to speak to one of the co-founders of the campaign, Nushi Yapabandara.
What inspired the development of the campaign REIGNITE?
We had been wanting to run this since UCSA Congress 2015, as many folks know, because of the horrendous instances of police brutality that kept and still do keep popping up in the news. reIGNITE was originally aimed more at severing the school-to-prison pipeline rather than stopping police brutality, but we are now looking into what we can do to help and prevent such awful occurrences from happening.
That’s amazing! What are some of the short term goals of the campaign, and what are some of the long term goals of the campaign?
In the short term we’re definitely looking to recruit as many people as possible into working with the campaign to make our long term goals more feasible. We’re still figuring out which long term goals specifically we can work on most efficiently, but they include areas such as community policing, working with our EVPLA’s to reach out to local PDs, outreach to local middle and high schools, and getting UC Merced their Multicultural Center among other things.
What student communities are most impacted by the work that the campaign seeks to achieve?
Students of color in general, including but not limited to first generation/low income college students, our black and brown brothers and sisters, and women of color. Those are the first communities that come to mind but the issues we tackle affect campus climate in general, reducing tension and making everyone feel more at home on their campus.
When you look back on the two years of this campaign, what is the most important thing you hope is accomplished?
I hope that reIGNITE running Diversify the UC shows other students of color that it is possible to help the city you came from at any given time. A lot of us want to graduate, get solid jobs, and go back to the neighborhood we grew up in to reform the area for future generations. We don’t have to wait that long. We have tons of resources and power at the UC that allow us to put serious pressure where needed. I hope Diversify the UC is seen as a successful campaign after our first two years, as we are already working on attaining non-profit status to continue chipping away at the problems we are tackling now. We have some big shoes to fill because of FYRE and the original IGNITE so it won’t be easy, but I have faith in our team and I know our passion shows. Things can and will change as long as you put in hard work.
How can students get involved in the work that the campaign is doing?
If anyone wants to get involved with reIGNITE’s Diversify the UC campaign, they can reach out to anyone on the board or message our Facebook page for more details! Some campuses don’t have persons of contact yet, but we are working with their EVP’s to find the right people. You can get in contact with your EVP if you’re interested as well!
UC Riverside: Momo Hussein, Corey Willis
UC San Diego: Said Said, Yusuf Ahmed
UC Santa Barbara: Myself (Nushi Yapabandara), Menelik Dagnachew
UC Davis: Maya Sadler
UC Merced: Daria Imbukwa
UC Berkeley: Leo Irving
Campus climate is an integral part of the university experience, and Reignite is determined to understand and address the underlying causes of student discomfort on campuses with an intersectional lens. If this sounds like your passion or area of interest, don’t delay to get involved!
*front page & article photos courtesy of Nushi Yapabandara
Julia Schemmer is a first-year Public Policy major at UC Riverside and Media Intern for the UC Student Association. Her goal is simple: to put the lit back in politics.