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“What I’m learning academically at Hampshire comes into play when I’m organizing,” says Kamika Bennett. “I have a good foundation in what the different issues related to immigration are, and what I have to do to build trust and solidarity among different groups.”
As a member of Hampshire's Immigrant Solidarity Network, Bennett found herself increasingly involved in rights issues for undocumented immigrants. She spent last summer interning with Comunidades Justas (Just Communities) in Springfield, MA, with a focus on anti-deportation work and legislative lobbying.
“A good part of what I had to do was spend time bonding with teens," she says. "I knew some of the issues they faced, but as an outsider to the community, I needed to build trust and solidarity. There are a lot of children and teens living in the shadows in our own community, afraid of deportation or a family member’s deportation."
Bennett emigrated with her family from Jamaica as a child, and she also has explored ways to help the often-overlooked community from that country which lives in the Springfield area.
“There’s a large Jamaican population here, mostly seasonal workers," she says. "This summer I spent time thinking about and trying to work with the undocumented Jamaican population in Springfield. A part of the process involves learning about that community as well as how to connect and articulate their needs within a larger immigrant rights movement."
Transferring to Hampshire College proved to be an ideal fit for Bennett, as she sought to deeper understand the issues she was so passionate about.
“Hampshire is very unique in some really important ways,” she says. “Immigration was an important aspect of my lived experience, and there are some really good professors here doing immigration work. Hampshire provides students with a critical immigration education. Students who are coming from marginalized backgrounds will find that there are Hampshire professors who will support their academic interests.”
She credits many faculty members with influencing her studies, most importantly Assistant Professor of African American Studies Chris Tinson, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory Falguni Sheth, and Five College Assistant Professor of Asian/Pacific/American Studies Sujani Reddy. She notes that the Community Partnerships for Social Change (CPSC) program has "been an amazing resource for me," providing her with a variety of civic engagement opportunities and support that ties in with her studies.
“I’ve learned how to navigate Hampshire in order to get the resources I need," she says. "Don’t ever think you won’t be able to get the funding to do what you want to do."
Bennett plans to do her Division III project on detention centers and their relation to what she considers “the mass criminalization of people of color.” After Hampshire, she intends to pursue graduate studies or law school, and also has interest in being an educator.
“We’re fighting a whole system that produces the types of marginalization we’re seeing," she says. "As a Hampshire student, it’s important for me to go into the immigrant community and provide whatever resources I can to help in the fight against criminalization and imprisonment.”