The “Dear UNH” project aspires to bring diversity to the forefront of campus conversation and make it something to celebrate instead of hide or be ashamed of. WildActs, a University of New Hampshire (UNH) student organization, hosted the Nov. 28 event to highlight the diverse students we have on campus. When I heard about the event, I couldn’t help but want to be a part of it.
The “Dear World” Campaign inspired the “Dear UNH” event. “Dear World” is a campaign that started with one man sharing his story with two words: “Cancer Free.” Robert Xavier moved to New Orleans at the age of 23 and fell in love with the city and the people who inhabited it. He documented people’s stories with photographs of them with words on their body. It began as a fun way to get to know his community but turned into so much more.
UNH WildActs took this idea and turned it into their own for the Durham community. The organization started“Dear UNH” around six years ago and picked it back up this year. They follow the same concept and put them up in the Memorial Union Building (MUB). This year, the event took place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in MUB 233. The photos are taken and, with the student’s consent, posted on WildActs social media and around the MUB.
Luke O’Connell, a sophomore history and recreational management and policy double major, is a member of WildActs who took most of the photos for the project.
“We wanted to refresh the art in the MUB,” says O’Connell. “Our organization wanted the art to represent the population. On campuses, especially UNH, there is such a lack of diversity, and we hope this project will enable more students to realize the need of representation.”
During the event, a WildActs member wrote my phrase of choice, “My disability does not define me” on my arms before I posed for my picture. It felt liberating to share my diversity. While there, I met a fellow student, 21-year-old animal science major Jack Lapierre, who had his own powerful message written on both arms. It read “Trans = Powerful.”
“I wrote ‘Trans = Powerful’ because I’ve had people try to make me feel powerless due to my gender identity and I know that I have power over myself and the power to impact others,” Lapierre said.
WildActs is UNH’s only social justice theatre troupe and uses the art of theatre to promote social change and spread awareness of prevalent social justice issues.