Students, faculty and staff are currently taking part in a 24-hour “Justice Fast”, which is focused on promoting justice, solidarity, integrity and dignity, in light of humanitarian issues worldwide and other social justice concerns.
The event began yesterday at noon and will continue until noon today. Participants first met up at the Arbor and then moved to their present location on the grass lawn by Storke Tower. The fast seeks to highlight a myriad of campus-based, domestic and international social justice issues — including suicide prevention, mental care, health care, immigration, gun violence, UCSB divestment, environmentalism, sweat shop brutality and Black Student Union demands.
The schedule for the day-long fasting event includes a variety of interactive activities, shared presentations and guest speakers. Yesterday, the group hosted a candlelight vigil, where they walked silently toward the Eternal Flame, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the group then shared in what they call “community-building” in a night-long session called “Convivo” from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Today’s activities will include speaker presentations throughout the morning and an open mic at noon. Participants will then break bread during a ceremonial to conclude the fast.
According to Camilo Ochoa, one of two group spokespeople and third-year Chicano studies major, the act of fasting, or abstaining from eating, emphasizes a continued prevalence of people’s hunger for justice. Ochoa also emphasized that the fasting time period is not as crucial as the underlying messages that are present in the event’s treatment of such a diverse range of issues.
“We’re trying to bring awareness to certain issues that are affecting our society and our larger global society,” Ochoa said. “At first, we were trying to figure out what issue to revolve our fast around, but in the end, we realized we couldn’t just focus on one issue. So we decided to split them, and students decided to take upon their own issues.”
The motto for the fast, “There’s too much to lose don’t make me choose!’ sufficiently addresses the multiplicity of the justice matters represented, Ochoa said. The chant, created by fourth-year Chicano studies major Yvette Aragon, surfaced as a result of students’ passions for different subjects.
Aragon said she chose the phrase after realizing fellow classmates were spending weeks trying to decide on a common fasting topic, and she said the chant’s goal was to unite the group.
“Usually when people fast, it is for one cause, and people get that,” Aragon said. “We all can’t decide and people are going to ask us, ‘What’s your cause?’ That is our cause — there are too many causes. There is so much going on and people hesitate to get involved because there is too much.”
According to Alyssa Castillo, the other group spokesperson and fourth-year sociology and Chicano studies double major, the purpose of the nonstop activities, speakers and workshops of the day-long event is to build solidarity as a collective group.
“This is for all of us to come for our own separate causes, but be together and create a safe space where we can express our issues, how we feel about them and how we’re hurting inside,” Castillo said.
Castillo said apart from not eating, a challenging aspect of the fast is trying to remain open-minded when explaining the ceremonial act to others.
“Sometimes for me, it’s hard to explain to people why we’re out here,” Castillo said. “It’s springtime and sometimes people don’t understand why we don’t eat for 24 hours, so I have to explain. But, what I find so rewarding is learning about other people’s injustices.”
Castillo said the fast seeks to bring together UCSB students, faculty and staff, as well as residents of Isla Vista and the rest of the greater Santa Barbara community.
“Just seeing everybody come together and remembering that you’re not alone in this big UCSB campus, is a beautiful thing,” Castillo said. “With thousands of students, it’s sometimes overwhelming.”
Building such a sense of community can shine light on issues that are not commonly discussed but still consistently present in the lives of others, thus allowing for mutual learning and increased knowledge about otherwise overridden subjects, according to Ochoa.
“It’s important to build relationships with people because lasting relationships are something that you can hold on to,” Ochoa said.
According to Ochoa, word of the fast was sent out via mass emails, flyers and organizational meetings and participants have become increasingly close with one another through their united passion for social justice issues.
“This group of people — this is the first time a lot of us have met,” Ochoa said. “But now, we feel like we know one another, and we’re very comfortable with each other.”