Nonprofit and NGO Studies major Michelle Nunez Salas is fighting systemic racism one sticker at a time.
Inspired by the resiliency of the black community, the 23-year-old Chicago native designed, created and sold Black Lives Matter stickers, raising $1,000 in two days.
That amount was matched by the company of one of her sorority sisters in Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, resulting in a donation of $2,000 to the Chicago Community Bond Fund to help those arrested during protests.
“I just felt like I should use my privilege as a non-Black Latina to educate and raise funds for those protesting against police brutality, and all systemic racism,” Salas said. “Because of the whole pandemic, I really had to think about a way I could help, and my part was with art.”
Along with “Black Lives Matter,” the stickers she designed contain various messages, such as, “Silence is Violence,” “Dismantle Systems Built to Oppress,” “We Must Not Be Complacent,” and “Black Lives Matter Because They Exist.”
Those who’ve bought the stickers have used them to make collages and decorate water bottles and laptops.
“When I see my friends putting those stickers on their laptops, I’m thinking about how they’re going to be walking into classrooms,” Salas said.
“It makes me proud to know people are not afraid to be met with intolerance. They are saying, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ maybe not the loudest way, but it’s taking up space. With just a sticker, those messages are going to reach people that they maybe otherwise wouldn’t have reached.”
Through Friday, Salas is selling $5 stickers both in celebration of Pride Month in June and in solidarity with Black Lives Matter to raise money for The Okra Project, an American grassroots mutual aid collective that provides support to Black trans, non-binary and gender-nonconforming people. The stickers contained the message, “No Pride without Black Trans Folx.”
“Pride is about being yourself and celebrating unapologetic authenticity with love,” she said. “The sticker is a reminder to keep fighting for the rights of all, and to acknowledge privileges within the LGBTQ+ community.”
Minoring in Latin American Studies, Salas expects to graduate in the Spring of 2021 and possibly pursue graduate school in a field related to mental health counseling. The first in her family to attend college, she’d like to use the knowledge she’s gathered to give back to her community
Following the death of George Floyd and the unrest in the country, she felt she had to take action.
“It’s extremely disheartening that a man had to die at the hands of law enforcement for the world to wake up to that truth,” she said. “I am saddened and angry at the violence that the Black community has to endure everyday.”
“I think what Michelle has done is a perfect example of how we each have the potential to be a community leader, to become civically engaged—and when we use our knowledge, experience and talents we can have a significant and widespread impact on our fellow community members,” she said.
Salas’ initiative and passion are remarkable, said Alicia Schatteman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the program and director of the Center for Nonprofit Studies and NGO studies.
“I’m really proud of her and other students of NGO,” she said. “She really represents so much of what a public university stands for. Many of our students go into our program because they’ve experienced injustices themselves or their family and friends have experienced injustices. I’ve watched many of our graduates go off and accomplish amazing things.”