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Women leading the charge for change at DVC

Rihanna+Taylor+and+Soha+Ashraf
Rihanna Taylor and Soha Ashraf

Rihanna Taylor and Soha Ashraf

Inquirer File Photo

Inquirer File Photo

Rihanna Taylor and Soha Ashraf

Aidan Sparks, Senior staff member

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Women are leading the charge for change at Diablo Valley College. Soha Ashraf and Rihanna Taylor have recently been on the front lines protesting for the rights and the respect they say everyone should receive from administration as well as potential threats to the student body.

You may have seen one of them in the past few weeks making their statements loud and proud, either protesting against anti-abortion activists or setting up rallies to drum up student support to remove far alt-right supporters and groups from campus.

Taylor, who wasn’t the igniter of the protest against the anti-abortion activists, felt it was her duty to herself, her school and her fellow women to stand up for the belief that as a woman, it is “our body, our choice,” which was put on numerous signs by the protesters.

As the protest started off small, it quickly grew throughout the two days the anti-abortion group set up shop on campus. No doubt, the product of Taylor’s booming voice which could be heard all throughout the quad.

“She wasn’t meant to be the leader, but she became one almost immediately,” said Nickish Ahumada, who like Taylor is also a drama student, attended the protest.

The anti-abortionists, as well as their student supporters, made many complaints about how aggressive Taylor was and how she was not respecting their First Amendment right.

Taylor responded by saying, “I, as an individual not involved with the government, yelling or talking over another individual cannot violate anyone’s First Amendment right. The people I go up against seem to think shaking hands and saying ‘have a nice day’ is the same as being a good person. But many of these people hate me, women, queers, etc. and hide behind their false civility, hoping my delivery will be enough to undermine my beliefs and that their delivery will be enough to sell theirs. I’d say read the Constitution and remember that being polite doesn’t make you right.”

Taylor explained why she always studies up on issues. She doesn’t want to be known as protesting for protest sake, but as someone who protests because she believes strongly in something and has done the proper research to back up her opinions.

It’s hard to imagine that Taylor would be scared to speak up in front of a crowd. However, she explained while in the moment, she is confident. The nerves get to her after the fact.

“Last semester, when I protested a pro-life group on campus, someone took a video of me and sent it off to a man who proceeded to really harass me sexually in a very violent and racist way through different outlets for months. So yeah, that’s scary, but usually when I’m in the moment, I care far more about expressing myself then what may happen to me. It’s not ’til (sic) after when I go, oh no,” said Taylor.

Taylor said her fear is temporary because of her strong group of peers and friends on campus who she knows will stand by her side.

This feeling of community is what fuels Taylor to keep fighting for what she believes is right.

“I love this school because of the students, it’s such a diverse and unexpected student body. I came to DVC when I was 16, I graduated high school early, and my first two or three semesters I wasn’t really passionate about academics, so I left. When I came back two and a half years ago, I joined the dramatic society and the Women’s Empowerment Group of DVC, and just made so many friends, and found the community I was looking for.”

Taylor is a huge supporter of WEDVC and agrees with the tactics and methods that Ashraf uses as the group’s president.

Ashraf, who is an English literature major but looking to switch to gender studies, joined the group her first semester at DVC back in 2016. Being very passionate and driven to spread a wave of equality and safety for all on campus, specifically women, she took over the mantle of president when Taylor stepped down.

Ashraf’s vision for her movement is something that she describes doesn’t just affect the students at DVC, but people all over the country.

“Our entire movement that we’re trying to build and bring to our community is one that is reflective of what’s going on at the national level. Our endeavor is to bring down Nazis and fascists and white supremacy.”

When asked how she has worked to further the movement of the group, she explained how important getting involved and building community was and standing up for what one believes in, despite what obstacles may arise.

“The club has evolved to building the movement and the community. I think people are often pretty scared of being involved in activism for fear of repercussions of admin or other students. For me, being a woman of color navigating modern society, there is always potential threats, but pursuing activism, building the movement, being part of campaigns is more empowering because they are their own self-protection,” said Ashraf.

WEDVC held a rally on campus on April 25 to gain support to remove alt-right students and groups from the school. Ashraf got signatures to support the removal of these groups, and explained the movement to other students with passion and clear direction.

Aidan Sparks
Students signing WEDVC’s petition after listening to Ashraf speak.

WEDVC member, Jasmine Reyes, described how Ashraf is determined, yet is always there as a friend and helping hand.

“Soha just exudes so much sincerity. The direction that the club has gone since Soha has become president has not only become more inclusive but more action-oriented, and more assertive for what we feel is necessary for community and on a national level as well.”

When it comes to standing up for what they believe in, both women say they don’t plan to stop anytime soon and will continue to fight for their rights as well as others.

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