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Solidarity Party to honor internationals and refugees in WNY

By BERT GAMBINI

Published February 8, 2017

“There is a lot of goodness in Western New York that won’t be drowned out by nasty voices.”
Kari Winter, professor of transnational studies and director
UB Gender Institute

UB’s Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender will hold a Solidarity Party to honor and celebrate international scholars, students, immigrants and refugees from 2-5 p.m. Feb. 12 at Asbury Hall, 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo.

The free public event will feature art, music, food and presentations. Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, which adjoins Asbury Hall, will open its galleries for the event. Singer and songwriter Drea d’Nur, known for her stirring tribute concerts to jazz singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone, will perform and Adam Zyglist, the Buffalo News’ Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, has given permission to project his cartoon “Nation of Immigrants.”

The goal is to create an outpouring of moral support and participation that demonstrates the humanity, justice and unity of the Western New York community, according to Kari Winter, professor of transnational studies and director of the university’s Gender institute, who is an organizer of the event co-sponsored by nearly 100 community and university partners.

“This is meant to be a good time and a welcoming occasion,” Winter says. “It comes at a time of unprecedented protest in the United States, but while we’re protesting we should also be celebrating what we care about. That includes our values and reaching out to people who feel besieged, rejected and afraid in our own community and abroad.”

Winter says supporting vulnerable populations is as important as protesting what she sees as a time of constitutional crisis in America.

“I think the first human response in a crisis is the impulse to support and protect those most at risk,” she says. “Life as usual is not an option.”

Media comparisons of the current political climate’s resemblance to pre-World War II Germany are plausible to Winter, who says she believes an immediate response is required to move the country toward peace.

“The framers of the U.S. Constitution were wise students of history when they established the balance of powers and a system of checks and balances,” she says. “We the people are responsible for making sure our country lives up to its best potential.”

For Winter, the crisis is a case she makes generally for American democracy, but one she also sees as posing specific dangers for the academy.

“I think American universities are threatened to their very core by an anti-Muslim ban,” she says. “Intellectual inquiry, truth, research and teaching cannot be confined to the boundaries of a nation-state, and President Trump represents the spearhead of a whole host of forces that have challenged rules of evidence, the concepts of fact and truth, and our capacity for trust. The ability of a university to function is undermined if facts don’t matter, if truth doesn’t exist, and international students and teachers are not allowed to come here.”

Winter hopes as many people as possible attend the event.

“Everyone who attends will draw nourishment and strength from one another,” she says. “There is a lot of goodness in Western New York that won’t be drowned out by nasty voices.”