Column: ’Tis the season to embrace the spirit of solidarity
In the United States and around the world, so many of our cherished religious and cultural observances are celebrated during the month of December, including Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucia Day, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Celebration of these different customs makes it such a special time of year, and often a reflective one. Lesser known but of such value during these times of deep political and social divides, is International Human Solidarity Day, observed on Dec. 20. Initiated by the U.N. General Assembly, the observance is founded on the idea that those who have the most are under moral and social obligation to help those who have the least, and the premise that promoting the culture of solidarity and the spirit of sharing is important for combatting poverty.
International Human Solidarity Day can be observed in many ways. We can join together in the spirit of unity even as we celebrate our diverse religions and customs. We can remind government officials about the importance of fulfilling commitments to international agreements. In addition, we can raise public awareness about the vital role solidarity plays in eliminating poverty and social injustice.
At Texas A&M University-San Antonio (A&M-SA), we are keenly aware of the importance of celebrating our unity in diversity and fulfilling our shared responsibility to help those in need. Led by the Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement, 94 Jaguar students served the San Antonio community for the year’s first day of service that was held in February. Called “Choose.Act.Impact.,” participants volunteered service at the Guadalupe Community Center, the San Antonio Food Bank and Camp CAMP, and on campus.
In September, more than 175 of our students participated in another day of service, demonstrating the university’s commitment to civic pride, community engagement and human solidarity. Through partnership with the San Antonio Tricentennial Commission and local nonprofit institutions—including Haven for Hope, American Sunrise, San Antonio State Hospital, San Antonio Pets Alive, the San Antonio Food Bank and Mitchell Lake Audubon Center — A&M-SA celebrated its largest-ever “Choose.Act.Impact.” By the end of 2018, the A&M-SA community logged a record 706 hours of service through “Choose.Act.Impact.”
Also in September, A&M-SA proudly introduced the first-ever Texas edition of the prestigious “What’s Next, Texas?” civil dialogue series. This innovative program challenges groups of diverse individuals from shared communities to collaborate to solve problems through deliberative discussion. In observance of Latinx Heritage Month, this program’s theme was focused on voter education and engagement in San Antonio’s Latinx youth community. The University’s Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement plans to integrate “What’s Next, Texas?” into regular semester programming in the future.
A&M-SA students also show solidarity with each other through commemorative activities, such as participating in San Antonio’s annual MLK March. As the 2019 march for the slain civil rights leader approaches in January, our students of all races and backgrounds will join en mass in the three-mile march from MLK Academy to Pittman-Sullivan Park to support Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
I am proud that the nearly 800 students who graduated from A&M-SA on Dec. 18 will go into the world understanding the value of solidarity. Many of them know what it is like to “be” the underserved. Fortunately, they also know what it is like to “serve” the underserved.
To learn more about A&M-SA and the many ways we serve our campus and surrounding communities, visit us at tamusa.edu.
Cynthia Teniente-Matson, Ed.D., is president of Texas A&M University San Antonio.