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Student spotlight

This week’s student spotlight shines on Deema Hindawi and Oliver Winfield-Perez

Deema Hindawi and Oliver Winfield-Perez are critical race, gender and sexuality students who advocate for student safety and equality. They’re both from the Bay Area and are community organizers and volunteers. They look at local and campus issues and work together to resolve problems that affect students. You can usually see them at community meetings or social justice events.

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Deema Hindawi, Criminal Justice Studies and CRGS major, was co-coordinater for HSU’s 25th annual social justice summit as well as participant in local social justice issues. | Photo by T. WIlliam Wallin

What are you studying at HSU?

Hindawi: I am double majoring in criminology and justice studies, CRGS (ethnic studies) and minoring in communications student advocacy.

Winfield-Perez: Critical race gender and sexuality studies.

Why did you pick these areas of study?

Hindawi: I picked these majors because I have always been fascinated with law and ethnic studies has always tugged on me and I want to learn more.

Winfield-Perez: I was originally was a child development major when I came to HSU, but I came to CRGS after taking a community organizing class with Dr. Marisol Ruiz Gonzalez in the education department. I came to CRGS from my own experience as a trans queer person of color in the world. My experiences with homophobia and transphobia, being othered and disrespected have lead me to know that something isn’t right, that we deserve a better world, that a better world is possible. CRGS has given me that, has given me a space to analyze, critique, dismantle and create alternatives.

Where are you originally from?

Hindawi: San Francisco.

Winfield-Perez: I was born in Hayward, Calif. in the East Bay, but my family moved around a lot for work. I spent most of my childhood in Riverside, the Central Valley and Santa Barbara county, then I moved back to the East Bay for high school.

What is your role in Associated Students and why did you want to join?

Winfield-Perez: I’m the external affairs representative. I act as a link of communication with other CSUs, state and federal policy/legislation and Humboldt State. I serve as Humboldt’s representative for the California State Student Association, (Student Government for all the CSUs, with 23 representatives) and attend monthly plenary meetings where we discuss legislation, policy and advocacy for students in higher education. I currently have a resolution on the floor at CSSA for Justice for Josiah/Students of Color Safety, hopefully it’ll pass in March. I also chair, the Lobby Corps committee, which as it sounds, is a lobbying committee.

I originally joined because I see student government as an institution which holds many contradictions and faults, but holds space for potential support for meeting the immediate needs and supporting the wellbeing of students across campus.

What clubs are you involved with on campus and what do you with them?

Hindawi: WRC (Women’s Resource Center) anti-racism coordinator, MCC (MultiCultural Center), SQE (Students for Quality Education), and MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán).

How do you juggle your workload?

Winfield-Perez: Honestly I am very controlling and particular about my schedule. I work best early in the morning, so often I’ll wake up around 5 or 6 a.m. to get readings done for classes. I have a detailed planner for the semester where I schedule out what I’m going to do every waking hour. It’s quite exhausting and stifling, but it has helped me stay accountable for my commitments and keep up with classwork.

Being an outspoken and involved student, what would you like to see at HSU change that would benefit students?

Hindawi: Tuition, racism, ignorance against race, removing the mascot, stop recruiting students of color without informing them about the racism, J4J.

What’s the plan after graduating?

Hindawi: Grad School.

Winfield-Perez: I’m looking to intern at an organization in the bay which organizes around prison abolition, prisoner support, anti-policing work, such as Critical Resistance, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, or one of the many others, so hopefully that works out. Other than that, I plan to take a year or two off before applying to some California Ph.D programs in Women and Gender studies, American Studies or Ethnic Studies. I really just want to give myself space to grow and learn, and not rush into grad school or force myself to go. I want it to be a semi-enjoyable experience if possible.

What has been your favorite experience in Humboldt?

Hindawi: Going outdoors.

Winfield-Perez: Community. I’ve met so many amazing, dedicated students, faculty, staff and community members who are so passionate about creating safe, accountable and loving communities. I see people busting their asses on the daily building campaigns for justice, holding elected officials accountable, creating networks of community solidarity and support, working to end racism, sexism, colonialism and oppression in our areas. To be a part of that has been so rewarding and I will always cherish my time here.

What are you most passionate about?

Hindawi: Justice.

Winfield-Perez: I’m extremely drawn towards critical prison studies, abolitionist work and anti-policing work. I see this effort as central in the emancipation of queer and trans people across the globe, who are specifically targeted, attacked, exploited and othered by carceral violence. As a queer and trans person of color, ending the prison industrial complex means not only can my communities be free, but I will be free as well, even as a person outside the material confines of prison walls.

I haven’t had much experience organizing around abolition, but am definitely moving towards it, and feel it is necessary for me to do.

I’m also honestly very passionate about writing. I love the feeling of starting with one subject with a piece of pen and paper, letting go and ending up in a space you didn’t even know was inside you. I’ve made amazing self-discovery through writing, processed grief, internalized racism and sexism, my own self doubt and confusion.

Who is an inspiration for you and why?

Hindawi: Marisol Ruiz because she always pushes students to be more than we have ever thought.

Winfield-Perez: All the people out there fighting for an end to white supremacy, settler colonialism, heterosexism and capitalism in their communities on a daily basis. All the people out there committing their lives to making a better world for the next generation. This is inspiring to me because I know first-hand that organizing is difficult, it is draining and you’re always coming up against people who don’t see you, who want to dehumanize you, silence you. And some of the people doing the hardest work are trans and queer women of color, who face some of the most gross and dehumanizing treatment. I have so much respect for organizers.

Who has been your favorite professor at HSU?

Hindawi: Marisol Ruiz

Winfield-Perez: The CRGS department is full of amazing, caring and intellectual professors, who will break down dense theory like Foucault to you, and who really see you, and listen to you when you share your struggles as a student, and show it in their actions. If I have to pick one though, I have to say Dr. Kim Berry. She teaches courses like Theory and Methods, Sex, Gender and Globalization and “Queer” Across Cultures. The most impactful knowledge I’ve gained from Kim is a strong critique and understanding of global capitalism, its intricacies, the big institutions which extract wealth and dehumanize people. She’s really able to take huge complex ideas and communicate them in a digestible, entertaining fashion. In her classes I can’t help but be 100 percent focused.

What volunteer work or outside organizations have you been apart of? How has it changed you?

Hindawi: Everything I mentioned earlier has changed how I view organizing and justice.

Winfield-Perez: I’ve been a part of Youth Educational Services since my freshman year. I directed and volunteered for the Queer Mentoring and Advocacy Program, which works with queer youth in the community to organize around their needs, provide support, and train educators on how they can better support queer youth in classrooms. I’ve also been a member of MEChA since my sophomore year, and recently joined Students for Quality Education in the fall of 2018.

I’ve also worked with organizing groups off campus intermittently, such as with Justice for Josiah and the campaign to remove the statue of William McKinley.

What advice do you have for incoming students?

Hindawi: Keep your eyes open and if you are a person of color please keep your eyes open a bit wider because Humboldt is not as safe as we are made to believe.

Winfield-Perez: I really hope incoming students are able to just give themself space to be and take care of their own needs. If you’re struggling with motivation and mental health, don’t be afraid to take some time off, don’t be afraid to listen to what you need and act on it. The university is always talking about four year graduation rates, which I do think can be important financially. But the reality is that college is difficult as hell and sometimes you just can’t keep pushing, you can’t suck it up and keep going, and that’s okay. I wish I would have given myself that space in times when I was really struggling. I feel like I would have had time to heal, grow and accept myself.

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