When Montgomery College student Patty Pablo went to bed on August 13—after the nation spent the weekend watching white supremacists trounce through Charlottesville, bearing torches and messages of bigotry and hate—only four people had RSVP’d to the protest event she advertised on Facebook. Maybe, she thought, a handful of people would show up. They’d make some signs, raise their voices to oppose white supremacy, and go home. Instead, Pablo awoke to more than 2,000 people, many from far beyond the Montgomery College community, expressing interest in the event. More than 500 people turned out on August 14 to march in Washington, from the White House to Trump Hotel to Judiciary Square.
“I didn’t expect any of it,” Pablo, 20, says of the crowd that surrounded her at Lafayette Square that afternoon. “We’re not a real organization. We’re just these two kids who wanted to do something.”
Pablo, along with her friend, Olivia Mouton, got the idea to start the protest from Dr. Vincent Intondi, associate professor of history. Feeling distraught watching the events unfold over the weekend in Charlottesville, they reached out to Intondi for guidance. Maybe he would know where to go protest, they thought.
Intondi told them: “Why are you waiting?”
Pablo, a theater major from the Phillippines who attended high school in Montgomery County, had always been active on social media, interested in social justice organizing, and plugged in to the larger Takoma Park community. Still, the response to her Facebook invite was overwhelming.
“I always wanted to do something this big, but I didn’t think I would do it this young,” she says.
She’ll have ample space and support at the College to continue her efforts: a new center on the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus devoted to studying social justice issues and providing support for students from underrepresented and marginalized groups. The center will open officially in February, but Intondi has been dreaming of such a center since he arrived on campus in 2013. Faculty and administrators had always been supportive of the idea, “but nobody knew exactly what this was,” he said.
Then came the 2016 election.
“I had so many students after the election, shaking in tears, students who were so scared of what was to come. I wanted a space where they could vent it out, talk amongst each other, and we could be together.”
Intondi soon got the greenlight for the center: three rooms on the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus—one for research, academic advising and meeting; one for speakers and movies; one for a food and clothing pantry. Computers arrived in September, and he’s got his own books on the shelves. A whiteboard listing shows community organizations students can get involved with, news organizations to follow, book readings, political events, and hearings throughout the Washington, DC, area. He’s got big plans for its future, including partnerships with other universities and local groups, a guest speaker series, a quote wall in the hallway.
“I’ve been so excited about it,” Pablo says of the center. “I want to do more going forward.”