CSWS operations manager Dena Zaldúa Frazier is one of about two dozen campus figures featured in a continuing online photography exhibit, “Our Stories, Our Communities: UO Diversity,” a project of the Division of Equity and Inclusion.
Our Stories, Our Communities: UO Diversity
Operations Manager for the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS)
I grew up in the Bay Area in California, went to college in northwestern Massachusetts, and lived in Brooklyn, Oakland, and San Francisco as an adult before moving to Eugene in 2008. Home has always been wherever my family and community is – and that has been something that, as a bisexual Jewish Latina, I have always had to create for myself from scratch. When you’re pretty much always an outsider no matter where you go, you learn that you have to find and make your community for yourself – you find your people, you gather them around you, and then you’re home.
My community at the UO is fierce, bold, and brilliant. CSWS has a history of convening and supporting some of the most talented and sharpest researchers on campus, and they in turn support CSWS with the love that comes from finding your place amongst your people. When it gets hard, because of national or campus events that make those of us on the margins feel a little less safe in the world, I know I’m not alone here. I have support here. And I am here for everyone else who needs that, too. For me, as someone who has worked for social justice nearly my entire adult life, there are few things more gratifying than that.
…..But all of that is not to say there are not challenges; of course there are. October and November 2016 were some of the more challenging moments of my career – between the law professor who dressed in blackface at her Halloween party to the difficult times for anyone who is on the margins that have followed the elections last year, there were some dark days when I thought perhaps it was just too difficult, and too much of an uphill battle, to try to make any kind of change at all.
[But] one of my favorite moments on campus though happened when a well-known Nazi and white supremacist from Springfield decided to park his truck full of hate messages and swastikas in front of the EMU. Crowds of us gathered to bear witness and to tell him he was not welcome here. It was heartening to see how many people, random passersby, were moved enough to stop and say NO. And then one of our campus rabbis started singing a song in Hebrew that is about celebrating life and the Jewish people, and people all around us started clapping and singing along. I was not only so proud to be part of that tradition that has spoken truth to power for so long and in so many ways, but I was proud to be on campus with complete strangers who cared enough to take that time out of their day to resist, and stand up to hate and fear-mongering. At the end of the day, that is all I could ever ask for.