by Angela Veloza Hernandez
I first heard about David Ke from CMASS when I was assigned to interview him as an undergraduate student to be featured in our website. Everyone was so eager to commend him as a student who can overcome any obstacle that stands in the way of his inevitable success. David, who is working towards a Bachelor’s Degree with an Individual Concentration in Social Justice in Education with a minor in Education, is a rising senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Coming from a Cambodian, Thai, and Chinese background, his parents migrated to the U.S. to escape the Cambodian genocide and eventually settled in Revere, Massachusetts. David Ke felt his passion about social justice issues at a very young age when he witnessed domestic violence in his own home perpetrated by his father. Also, seeing his sister, who is legally blind, struggle in the public educational system inspired him to learn more about the different support and resources available for both students with disabilities and those who are learning English as their second language.
David is fully involved at UMass. He is an America Reads tutor for the 1stgrade class at Wildwood Elementary in Amherst, where he focuses on helping kids fine tune their reading and writing skills. He is also part of SHAHA, a Swahili word that stands for “storytellers.” SHAHA holds performances that focus on social justice issues every Tuesday at 7:30pm; all performances are written and performed by students. Through SHAHA, David wrote a piece on the different shades of skin color and their discriminatory forms in Southeast Asia.
David is very much a part of the Phallacies Theatre Group, which focuses on redefining masculinity and fights domestic violence among men and women. This all male group highlights controversial issues like rape in their performances. Ke wrote a piece for the group called “Home” that shares the personal story of his family. He also serves as a peer mentor through CMASS, mentoring an incoming ALANA (African, Latino, Asian, and Native American) freshman. David is an active member of CERC, the Coalition to End Rape Culture. The group works on spreading awareness of this issue, and educates people about how sexual violence does not only impact women or family and friends who have been affected by it in some way, but that rape is an issue that affects everyone. Just recently, there was a showing at UMass of the movie “Flirting with Danger,” which David recommends watching. With CERC, David has taken part in a rally where 118 people spoke out against rape culture.
David is an active advocate of the White Ribbon campaign against domestic violence. He states that males are expected to be hyper-masculine. Hegemonic masculinity describes the expectations of being a man (i.e. taking shots at a party, making the first move when it comes to girls, being sexually active, paying for everything, and defending family). He says, “We are supposed to raise stories that are not told, and change how men talk about women. We have concentrated on always blaming the victims because of something they did wrong, or something they were wearing.
David states that we have the power of our voice, that through our actions and what we say, we create a movement. He said,” Gandhi created a social movement on British imperialism, but he did it peacefully.” There is no excuse for violence.
David mentioned other concerns such as the Equal Pay Act and Anti-Immigration Laws. He says, “We all know that a man earns more than a woman, and no one says anything so it is not enforced. The Anti-Immigration laws have been placed by politicians who collectively believe that it is alright to do injustice to another human being”. David’s favorite quote is by Martin Luther King- “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.”
While I was talking to David, I felt grateful for him sharing his life with me. He was so open and so passionate with the causes that he is actively involved in. He encourages students to ask questions and challenge their own values. He believes that hard work makes attaining higher education possible. He says he works three jobs just so that he can support himself while trying to earn his college degree. He keeps a very rigid schedule but he makes time for all the activities that he is engaged in, attending meetings he has to go to, and still doing the job required of him as a student. David’s message to other students is to be aware that there are a lot of students like him who work hard to attain higher education; it takes just a little bit of skill at time management. He says, “Access to education provides the opportunity to succeed in any career.”
David’s advice to other students at UMass is: “I hope that others will model themselves after small things that I have done from smiling and saying thank you to a worker at the dining commons, to being actively involved in student organizations. Students need to stand up for a cause that they believe in and talk when they are told not to. We need to redefine ourselves as leaders. As a man, I've worked with groups who speak out against sexual assault and domestic violence. As a working class student, I balance out the stresses of managing my bills and keeping up with my grades. Together we can work collectively as a group, to pass on our wisdom to the next generation.”