For many people, the simple acknowledgement of marginalized identity groups is enough to clear the conscience. However, the ALLIES organization works to combat this sense of immediate relief by prompting Ohio University students to take action through education.
Luvina Cooley, a junior studying anthropology and president of ALLIES, said the organization was created in January 2021 with a goal to invoke discussions on intersectional allyship. She said the club was revived from a previous club with similar goals and values that had since gone dormant.
“A couple of our student staff workers here at the LGBT Center realized that, while we have a lot of affinity organizations, we don't really have one dedicated around education of allyship,” Cooley said. “We revitalized (the organization) to fill that gap.”
The group meets virtually and in person in Bentley Hall 124 each Thursday at 7 p.m. hosting both in-organization meetings and community forums. The meetings invite students to come and participate in educational dialogue focusing on a variety of different marginalized communities, Cooley said.
“We always try to be aware of systemic barriers and different obstacles that people are going to face, whether that's academic, whether that's racial, whether that's status as a queer person, whether that's status as a religion that's not dominant within the culture or anything like that,” Cooley said.
Each meeting is designated a specific topic such as disability rights, legislative advocacy, public health and many more, Cooley said. The meetings not only highlight new ways of thinking, but they also put an emphasis on ways students can take action to make a difference.
Daniela Grijalva, a master’s student studying law, justice and culture and the vice president of ALLIES who uses she/they pronouns, said they initially got involved because they thought its message needed a larger audience.
“We felt that there was a big void and a big need to teach what allyship was and have more conversations about intersectional identities and what it means to actually support different groups,” Grijalva said.
Grijalva said in their time at OU, they had not had an organization that focused so strenuously on promoting and being allies of all marginalized identity groups on campus.
“Figuring out how to talk to a population of students that don't really seem to want to talk about these issues is a big challenge,” Grijalva said. “I've really seen a lot of growth in our members and in ourselves, and we've all been constantly learning from each other and from different organizations.”
A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into the organization, Cooley said. She and her fellow executive board members go out of their way to ensure they provide the most relevant and significant resources in preparation for each meeting.
“We always are collaborating with other student organizations because we know that we aren’t going to be the best people who can talk about a certain topic,” Cooley said. “We want to be able to educate people but also uplift the voices of marginalized communities.”
In addition to doing a large amount of research and diving deep into the hardships that many minority groups face, MaryKathyrine Tran, interim director of the Women's Center and ALLIES adviser, said she admires the work the executive board does to bring in speakers with first-hand knowledge rather than making their own assumptions about a community experience.
Tran said she decided to take on her role in the organization when she realized the necessity for education and growth in terms of allyship within the university.
“It's not enough to simply say we care about others, but we need to continuously demonstrate our commitment through actions and ensuring Ohio University is a space for all students, staff, faculty and community members,” Tran said in an email.
Cooley said she has been involved in the organization since it returned to campus because she has a passion for advocacy and taking action rather than simply making a post on social media or other performative tendencies. She said ALLIES does its best to advocate for communities on campus in tangible ways.
“We always try to promote other organization events that are coming up, especially when they are marginalized identities,” Cooley said. “I'm always really excited to see when our members go out, and they support these other events that are going on in the community.”
Cooley said the community the organization encourages is something that there is a demand for within OU.
“I came from a really rural area, and I didn't have access to this type of education,” Cooley said. “It's so important because I don't think that we have enough of that going on right now.”
Grijalva added that the recent display of racism by students on campus exemplifies why organizations such as ALLIES are so necessary. They said the goal of ALLIES is to work toward putting an end to those actions and ways of thinking through education. ALLIES calls for a large transformation from the university and its students.
“It's clear that this university has a huge problem with knowing how to be an ally, knowing how to respect individuals and knowing how to take accountability,” Grijalva said.
Tran said her hope for the future of the organization is that it continues to provide important, researched information in its programs and builds an even larger audience within the university to educate.
“ALLIES is a great organization led by passionate folks who are looking to better their OHIO community,” Tran said in an email. “I hope others will attend a meeting, either online or in-person, and contribute to the conversation.”