WORDS BY: DIANE VAY
PHOTOS BY: WILLIAM ODIS MARTIN
When you walk past the wooden patio tables with blue umbrellas or flights of stairs leading to the second floor of the University Student Union (USU), you’ll find the office of Multicultural Affairs in room 301. Once you step in, you might get a chance to meet Christian Lozano-Cuellar, 26, and Jonathan Higgins, 31 — both of them assistant directors.
Lozano-Cuellar is in a program known as Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), organized under the Obama administration. With a President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Lozano-Cuellar appears concerned about his future.
“Right now, I’m still anxious,” he said. “I’m still trying to get through, but, at the same time, we can’t allow ourselves to be in that space. Some of the things will impact me directly, but something tells me I will be just fine with whatever outcome.”
Lozano-Cuellar has had a similar experience before. During six years of university, he had to transfer schools because of legislation that required undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition. He said he is thankful for DACA, which got him through grad school and ultimately led him to where he is in life today.
His journey to the U.S. initially began when he moved here from Guanajuato, Mexico when he was about 7 years old. After completing grad school at the University of Dayton in Ohio more than a year ago, he traveled halfway across the country from East Chicago, Indiana.
He arrived in California with two bags in-hand filled with legal paperwork, canvases and some clothes. The canvases hang on the walls of his office today along with colorful post-its, a woven fabric and a portrait of Frida Kahlo.
“I’ve worked so hard for over the past six years to be where I’m at right now, so this is my opportunity to really make something and to learn from this experience,” he said. “I want to establish something on this campus that’s going to make a difference.”
He currently works with the American Indian Student Study Center, the Asian Pacific Student Center and Raza Resource Center.
In the meantime, Lozano-Cuellar is considering how the current trend in politics might change other people's lives.
“I see this not only impacting many individuals, but this past election is impacting our undocumented population, our Latino population, our Muslim population, our immigrants — not just Latino, but all immigrants — our Black communities, our LGBT community, and not acknowledging or recognizing that, it’s like we don’t care,” he said.
Higgins also collaborates with other resources on campus such as the LGBT Resource Center, the African Student Association Center and the Multicultural Center. He is the founder and curator for Doctor Jon Paul, a media platform in which he shares details about his identity as a queer black man.
On his YouTube channel, Higgins discussed several topics and published a video called “Ending It: Cutting Ties and Letting Loose,” which, like all of his videos, has a deeper history behind it.
In this case, he was leaving behind his religion — and his family.
“I do not associate with anything or anyone who is affiliated with that belief [Jehovah’s Witness],” he said. “Me and my mom don’t have a relationship anymore.”
Higgins said he came out to his mom when he was 19, but it wasn’t until after he became domestically partnered in July that he stopped talking to her. He also ended his relationship with the rest of his biological family, with the exception of his brother.
“If you can’t love me past your own B.S., I don’t need you to add to the other issues that I have to deal with on a daily basis,” Higgins said.
He said, occasionally, he’d fight the urge to get in contact with his mom.
“I have to remember that I’m fighting for my right to live and exert my truth,” Higgins said.
While sharing his story, he said he thinks that professionals should break down barriers and allow students to hear their stories, to allow them into their lives.
“Throughout everything that I’ve had to deal with in my life, whether good or bad, I’m still walking on campus,” he said, “and I’m still smiling, and I’m still amazing, and there’s nothing that anybody can do about that.”