Nobody gets LEFT behind


KC Portee

Student Taylor McCabe performing her poem “It’s hard to talk about the sky when you’ve been underwater.”

Mayra Figueroa Vazquez, News Editor

San Diego Mesa College is an open campus that welcomes students and faculty of all backgrounds and ethnicities no matter their gender, sexuality or socioeconomic status. Full time professor and an adversary to the cause, Sakeenah Gallardo, hosted Voices From The LEFT, and all inclusive event designed to give students a safe space to share their stories of bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Students and faculty came together on April 12 to shine a light and be educated on the reality of bullying that occurs day to day. Each performer shared their experience with bullying and discrimination. Topics ranged from depression, harassment in the workplace, catcalling on the streets to stereotypes people encounter based on the color of their skin.

Gallardo was among the 18 performers. She read the poem “Boobs & Brains” by Angela Aguirre, a story about a girl being harassed by a school counselor stereotyping her as a homemaker rather than a working woman. Gallardo was personally bullied herself her whole life because of her name, as well as in the workplace by her superior. She stated, “for me it was scary to fight but I knew I had to because it wasn’t just happening to me, it was happening to others as well and if I did not fight it wouldn’t give others a chance to fight.’’

She expressed, “Bullying is no longer in the locker room, it is no longer on the playground, it is in the classroom, it is in the home, it is in the workplace.” Gallardo has hosted this event for the past three years here at Mesa explaining that it’s “for the people who are left out, who are left behind and marginalized because of race, because of sexual orientation, gender expression, socioeconomic status, even their name.”

Many of Gallardo’s current and former students read some letters of appreciation to her, praising her for her dedication to her students. Moved to tears by her students expressions  of gratitude, Gallardo made a statement to anyone who is being bullied and said, “don’t believe it, just know that there is something so deeply broken in them that they have to lash out at you to make themselves feel more whole.” She urged students who are too afraid to stand up to seek help from either a teacher they trust or a friend, she said, “don’t be afraid to have a voice.”

Mesa student Colin O’Connor preformed “Sticks and Stones” by Jon Jorgenson, a poem about a young boy with a learning disability similar to his. O’Connor was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and has been bullied because of it. He said, “I felt like I was pushed in the corner, like I was a voice from the left, like literally a voice from the LEFT.”

He recalled the aftermath of each horrific experience and stated, “there were times where I just wanted to run away and lock myself in a room and you know, luckily I didn’t have a knife or a gun in my hands because otherwise I would of used it on myself.” O’Connor suffered from depression for five years and attempted to take his own life 30 times because of bullying. He proudly stated, “I am free, I am alive, I am strong.”

Another students who participated in the event was Taylor Carpenter. She read an original poem called “Wind Kisses.” Carpenter explained, “people bullied me as a child because I was different, (because) I was in a wheelchair.” Often feeling left out she would find herself spending a lot of time by herself and her friend, nature. When the leafs would fall by being blown by the wind, Carpenter, liked to consider them wind kisses. She said, “when we least expect it, god has a funny way of reminding us that we matter and that we are important.”

Both O’Connor and Carpenter also shared their views on Mesa’s Disability Support Programs and Services (DSPS). Carpenter explained that DSPS is very supportive but, she stated, “I feel like as a campus sometimes they lose sight of their mission to be the leaders in equity and excellence but luckily there are professors, like professor Gallardo, that can help students express themselves and can help everyone receive an equal chance to seen and be heard.”

O’Connor praised DSPS by stating, “I’ve been getting such great support from professors, the counselors, even some of my friends who attend college.” He explained that with his disability he has gained such a great support system on campus. He said, “ I am just very beyond thankful for that.”