When walking through the SLTC or heading to class, there is a good chance that you may spot a button pinned to one of your fellow classmates. These buttons may be fun to wear and look at, but they hold a deep meaning for many Hendrix students.
Dominique Kelleybrew is the coordinator of Multicultural Student Services at Hendrix College, which works to assist students through cross-cultural reflection. MSS accomplishes this by working to develop diversity, service, and leadership opportunities on campus. One of the methods Kelleybrew has used to achieve these goals is through button making.
Kelleybrew is not new to the art of button making. He originally began in high school while on Student Council. However, he got the idea to bring back the button press following the inauguration of Donald Trump. Kelleybrew felt that students who wanted to express themselves might not be able to accomplish as much through posters or signs. Buttons were a simpler and more accessible means for students to wear their convictions on their sleeve.
The messages that Kelleybrew puts on these buttons are always representative of human, social, or civil rights. They may display quotes from leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mohandas Gandhi. One button simply depicts a woman wearing a burqa patterned like the American flag. The buttons are simple ways for students to not just make a political statement. These buttons also allow students to reach out to one another as allies for a cause.
Kelleybrew sees a special benefit in these buttons because it also allows students to select the causes that they most identify with and then display that advocacy through the button.
The buttons that Multicultural Student Services make is by no means a replacement for active political advocacy. Rather, these buttons serve as conversation starters between students. A way to create dialogue which otherwise may never have occurred.
Kelleybrew has witnessed the buttons having a positive impact on students. “Giving something as simple as a button really lifts a lot of people’s spirits,” Kelleybrew said. He also knows that while button messaging may have a very localized effect, it doesn’t have to stop here. “Giving out buttons isn’t going to change the world or anything” Kelleybrew said, “but it can be a step.”
One student who has made frequent use of these buttons is Elizabeth Soo, a senior biology major. “So many people in the world are, and have been, marginalized in one way or another,” Soo said. “This is one small way to show that we support and care about those individuals.”
After our conversation, Kelleybrew took me through the steps of making my very own button. I selected an image of Frida Kahlo for Women’s History Month and went through each step in the process. At the end, I had a perfect little button of the iconic Mexican painter. While buttons may be small, our actions do not have to be. So now as I make my way to class or the cafeteria, I too will be sharing my conviction, in my own little way.
Photo Credit: Leah Headley