Anthropology student Haji (’19) takes action in Burlington community

In late September, Anthropology student Aden Haji ’19 spoke at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City for the International Peace Day Conference. Haji is a member of UNITE, an organization fostering activism among Vermont youth. Through UNITE’s partnership with the non-profit Children of the Earth, Haji and his peers were invited to the conference in early Fall. Haji writes of the conference, “students met with other young activists from around the world, listened to speeches given by Nobel Prize laureates, and shared their work and ideas. Participants also had the opportunity to carry the flags of the nations of the UN at the Flag Ceremony in Tillman Chapel at the UN Church Center.” When asked why he wanted to attend the conference, Haji says he looked forward to being in an environment with youth leaders and activists from around the world, sharing ideas, and seeing youth-initiated projects in communities.

Certain conference attendees were selected to speak about the action they have taken to promote peace in their communities. Haji spoke about the development of his community-based initiative Speak Up Roosevelt Forum (or, S.U.R.F. for short). The forum’s purpose is to bring community

members, organizations, and law enforcement together to facilitate discussion of concerns, share stories, as well as foster a stronger, more personal connection. He says there is a “need for more connectivity in the Burlington community,” and S.U.R.F. provides time, space, and an inclusive environment in which difficult discussions can be had. Currently, he estimates there are fifty members who attend meetings regularly. When asked about goals for S.U.R.F., Haji reflects on his vision to allow open communication, communal solutions, and multicultural inclusion. He cites the necessity to make Burlington’s multicultural communities heard and visible. In an effort to involve more community members like UVM students, Haji has partnered with The Mosaic Center for Students of Color. He refers to the gap between UVM students and the Burlington community and explains that involving more students in the place they live benefits both parties.

As for Haji’s other achievements, he is on the board of directors for two organizations, Spectrum Multicultural Youth Program and Young Traditions. As an anthropology student with a focus in cultural anthropology, he will be applying his studies to the S.U.R.F. program through an independent study this spring.

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