Tunnel of Oppression returns for 10th year at SIU


Jailel Barr, a junior from Ullin studying journalism, speaks about physical disabilities during a tour of the “Tunnel of Oppression” on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Grinnell Hall. The annual event highlights and educates visitors about various issues faced by minorities. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

By Diamond Jones

The Tunnel of Oppression has returned for its 10th demonstration meant to show examples of the oppression minority groups experience in contemporary society.

The free event, organized in the university’s series to commemorate Black History Month, is open from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday in Lower Level Grinnell. Event organizers are asking that anyone under 17 years of age not participate because of the subjects presented.

Shadashalin Pierce, president of the Black Togetherness Organization, said the event allows “people to see the different challenges someone goes through on a daily basis.”


“This is important because people have a general perspective of oppression that a group goes through,” Pierce said. “The tunnel will expand that perception and hopefully bring a better one.”

This year’s tunnel covers social issues including racism, colorism, body-shaming and women’s rights.  The interactive displays, designed by registered student organizations, show original videos, visuals and live-action theater to showcase various forms of discrimination.

Groups of up to 10 participants are guided into the tunnel, where they can spend up to five minutes each in six connected rooms that address various forms of oppression in contemporary society. Counseling staff is on hand at the event to prepare participants and provide emotional support after viewing the demonstrations.

The National Association of Colored Women’s Club, a newly inducted student organization, was tasked with handling the topic of colorism. The group conducted a small social experiment by interviewing students on campus about their personal experiences with and opinions of colorism.

The group gives participants the brown paper bag test, which was used in the 20th century to approve or deny entry to public places based on skin color.

“Being woman of color, actually of all different colors, we have all either witnessed or experienced colorism,” said Patrice Phillips, president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club. “We want people to know what it feels like.”

Phillips said she hopes the organization’s performance will attract more people, and that everyone on campus should experience “a reality check.”


“What people are going through can be challenging at times,” Pierce said. “Those trials and tribulations can define who they are and how they go about their daily life and processes.”

Campus reporter Diamond Jones can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_dimewrites.

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