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Tunnel of Awareness: Shining Light on Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Tim Belizaire

The Multicultural & Leadership Development Center (MLD) hosted its fifth annual Tunnel of Awareness event from Nov. 1 through Nov. 3. This year’s theme was “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.

MLD describes the event as a museum-style immersive experience that tackles the topics of equity, fairness and healing.

The beginning of the experience started with walking into a dark room. Throughout the walk, multiple stations covered sensitive topics. One station had a blood-stained shirt.

The shirt was worn by a victim of workplace violence in 1996 after the 17-year-old stopped working for a couple of minutes to drink water. The worker walked multiple miles to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers office in the shirt to file a complaint. The incident led to a protest involving hundreds of workers.

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Tim Belizaire

Another station was the “I can’t funeral.” This station involved having a proverbial funeral for “I can’t” statements that disabled people have heard or said.  Adaptive services had a station in which some of the services offered by them were highlighted.

The final station was the debriefing station. This is where participants had a chance to reflect on the walk. Participants used a piece of paper to write down what they wished to see for their future and the future of others.

The paper was then turned into origami fortune tellers which were staged on a table in the final room.

The goal of the Tunnel of Awareness is to shed light on social issues that impact marginalized communities. There was also a focus on making sure the FGCU community was addressed as well as the local and national community.

Travell Oakes is the Sr. Assistant Director of MLD and was present for the event. Oakes said he wants to increase awareness of the various issues facing marginalized communities even though he believes that awareness is not enough. 

Oakes and the rest of the team that organized the Tunnel of Awareness have a phrase on a t-shirt that Oakes says he wants to be more than a phrase. That phrase is “awareness to action.”

“It’s not just about going through the museum and learning about different issues that hinder or create barriers toward our marginalized communities. What is your sole responsibility and how can you create a better space for all,” Oakes said.

Oakes said he enjoyed the process of creating the theme. He worked alongside Victor Rios who is the MLD coordinator. 

Alexandra Pipitone is the Assistant Dean & Director of the MLD. She was the one to oversee the planning committee for this year’s Tunnel of Awareness event.

She loves the new layout that was decided upon this year. 

“My favorite part is how we were able to reformat the structure, instead of it being separate rooms, making it more of an open space,” Pipitone said. “I wanted to make sure that we were highlighting the intersection of so many identities and social topics such as LGBTQ students, disability awareness, and microaggressions.” 

A topic of conversation when planning Tunnel of Awareness was making sure participants had a safe space when dealing with potentially triggering subject matters.

Tim Belizaire

“The information is very impactful and can be triggering, but we made sure that we were doing it in a respectful way. We also have a briefing and debriefing space for participants to prepare themselves for what they’re about to see,” Pipitone said.

Pipitone wants the participants in the event to know that they are safe.

“Yes, it can be really impactful and at times triggering, but [it] is a brave space and a space that is supportive for them,” Pipitone said. 

MLD plans on continuing the Tunnel of Awareness event next year.

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About the Contributor
Tim Belizaire, Eagle News Assistant Photo Editor
Tim Belizaire is a junior majoring in journalism. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and moved to Cape Coral when he was 12. His goal is to either venture into photojournalism or investigative journalism. Tim spends his free time taking pictures or listening to Lana Del Rey for hours.

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