EastBay Today

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Posted December 11, 2017

Cross this Out

Cal State East Bay professor’s response to vandalism gains momentum

Assistant Professor G.T. Reyes was the victim of vandalism — and his powerful, positive response is gaining steam.
garvin tso

The words taped to the outside of Cal State East Bay Assistant Professor G.T. Reyes’ office door are simple — “love,” “justice,” “community.”

But the ideas behind the words represent something far deeper and more complex, similar to the act of vandalism that inspired Reyes to post the positive messages in the first place.

In late November, a colleague of Reyes called him after work to share that several of the solidarity-themed posters taped to his office door, with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Brown and Proud,” as well as his nameplate, had each been crossed out with a large letter “X.”  

“It felt personal to me, because our door was the only one crossed out and my name was also crossed out while [my colleague Dr. Mari Gray’s] name plate was reversed as if to draw attention to me," Reyes said. “As a man of color … it really started to weigh in on me, and I realized an anxiety started to build up, and I started to have this feeling that I was preparing for a fight, a physical fight.”

But he chose not to fight. At least not in the traditional sense.

Instead, in the days that followed, Reyes created a quilt — a patchwork of new, empowering phrases to place on his door, peppered with an array of words he would like to see crossed out in the world: “racism,” “sexism” and more. Reyes photographed and posted his "Cross This Out" quilt on social media, where the hashtag #crossthisout is now gaining traction. The idea for the quilt has also spread to doors at both the Cal State East Bay and UC Berkeley campuses, several public schools in the East Bay, and Iowa and New York.

Media outlets are covering Reyes' response, too, including KCBS Radio and NBC Bay Area.

“I wanted to figure out how I could send a message that was concise, compelling and accessible for other people to participate in,” Reyes said.

His action has elicited the attention — and backing — of the university community.

“The vandalism of Dr. Reyes’ and Dr. Gray’s office doors is unacceptable,” said Cal State East Bay President Leroy M. Morishita. “However, the positive, constructive response to these actions is remarkable, and something we can all learn from. This university fully supports the open exchange of ideas and thoughts.”

Reyes said he hopes the project shows people they can respond to discrimination in a way that encourages open dialogue about motivation and change.

“To the person who did this to my door, I’d say ‘Slide through, let’s talk about what happened, what’s the threat I pose and why?’” Reyes said.  

And as he walks the halls of Cal State East Bay and sees more quilts covering doors each day, the solidarity makes him smile.

“It reminds me of a really simple principle — that any human who experiences some act of oppression is not alone,” Reyes said. “And when a single person speaks up and verbalizes support in such a way that's accessible for others to hear it, you realize you’re not alone. There’s now this visual testimony that says I’ve never been alone on this campus, I’m not in this fight by myself, I’m with like minded people and I can make an impact alongside folks.”