College Hosts Annual City Streets Festival, Students Protest for Labor Justice

This Sunday, April 10, the college hosted its annual City Streets festival, serving food from eight different global regions and flying 145 different flags. At the event, the Amherst Labor Alliance flew banners calling for labor justice.

College Hosts Annual City Streets Festival, Students Protest for Labor Justice
The college hosted its annual City Streets festival this Sunday, celebrating the diversity of the student body and serving a range of delicious foods. Photo courtesy of Caelen McQuilkin ’24E.

For two hours this past Sunday, the Greenway-King quad was animated with the spectacle of colors from over 145 flags, disrupting the usually desolate white tents usually decorating the campus. From Argentina to Mongolia to Zambia and Kyrgyzstan, the globally-themed spring event drew hundreds of visitors with its dazzling showcase of international emblems.

These flags represent the heritages, nationalities, and ethnicities of the student body, and are a testament to the diversity of identities in Amherst’s community which celebrated its annual City Streets festival this Sunday, April 10. Many members of the community welcomed it as a celebration of the college’s diversity and a break from classwork.

This year’s City Streets also represented one of the first campus-wide events with the new loosened Covid-19 protocols.

From 6 to 8 p.m., the hum of laughter and chatter echoed throughout the quad, accompanied by the aroma of Indian, Middle Eastern, French, Mexican, Nepalese, Moroccan, Taiwanese, and Cajun cuisine. Live music from student acapella groups, performing in homage to departing President Biddy Martin, and the Crocodile River Music Group provided a buoyant ambiance to supplement the games, food, and  long lines.

“It’s a really good event to get people outside and get the campus more lively,” said Dickson Wafula ’22.

Brandon Ngacho ’24 remarked that “There are many strengths because it’s a nice time to be outside with everyone else and get to enjoy things you don’t normally enjoy.” He also compared the event to last year’s, stating, “A day like today, it’s a bit packed into two hours, unlike last year where it was a little bit longer and with more variety of food.”

“It feels refreshing,” said Teddy Baraza ’23. “It should’ve been like this for months now because of the amount of cases, I mean, I’m tired of it at this point.”

“It feels nice to be here and stuff but we still have to remember that we are in a pandemic and this being city streets means a lot of us international voices are being represented,” said Ngacho. “In America, things like this [relaxing of Covid-19 measures] are happening but everywhere else in the world isn’t necessarily the same which means it’s a blessing to be here.”

Wafula stated that “It also feels like it’s kind of a reward for how we’ve been following the rules for the past year.”

The Amherst Labor Alliance also used the event to stage a protest calling on the administration to provide employees with living wages. The protest involved banners hung from various campus buildings and chalk messages written on walkways across campus, which expressed sentiments such as “Who matters on Amherst campus?,” “Amherst exploits workers,” “@ trustees, where’s the $ going?,” and “Living wages are a right!”In a follow-up Instagram post, the group urged supporters to promote their signs and demanded action be taken now to achieve living wages and benefits for Amherst workers.

The Amherst Labor Alliance used the event as part of its campus-wide protest that took place on Sunday, calling on the administration to provide staff with living wages. Photo courtesy of Caelen McQuilkin ’24E.

“The main impetus was to draw attention to the unjust labor practices at Amherst College and build solidarity between students and workers on campus,” said Lev Robertson ’23E in a statement to The Student.

“The protest day was chosen because members of the board of trustees were visiting campus, as well as admitted students and those attending City Streets,” he added.

“We want our actions to remind people that members of our community continue to be exploited by the college’s structures and practices. Workers across the college are integral to sustaining life on-campus and deserve fair labor conditions,” said Grace Cho ’23E.

“The immediate goal was to pressure the administration to budget funds from the college’s massive $3.7 billion endowment to pay all their employees a living wage,” said Robertson.

Cho added, “As students … we are privileged to have the influence to effect meaningful changes on-campus, and we hope to promote student-worker solidarity.”

Amherst Labor Alliance hung banners calling for change across campus on Sunday. They called to specific attention the college’s labor practices and the need to reallocate funding. Photo courtesy of Caelen McQuilkin ’24E.