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#IExist movement comes to St. Olaf to celebrate identity

On April 24, the #IExistMovement tabled in Buntrock as part of Presente’s, the Latin American Student Organization at St. Olaf, Viva La Raza festivities. The movement was started by international student Marina Hobday at East Carolina University (ECU) after the death of a student whose mental and personal health was not taken seriously by the campus community. Hobday protested for seven hours in the rain. It was only after local news outlets and the student newspaper at ECU came to report that Hobday was finally heard and the movement gained momentum. 

The official motto of the movement, as provided by the I Exist Movement’s official website, is “International movement promoting mental health and human rights for every individual.” The purpose of this movement is to be intersectional, bridging the gap between one’s physical identity and the battles they fight internally. 

Maddie Thies ’19 is one of the international ambassadors for the movement on St. Olaf’s campus, having started #IExistMinnesota. Thies’ take on the movement, especially as a part of Presente’s Viva La Raza week, was to have participants share and celebrate the complexities of their identity. 

“I reached out to Marina Hobday soon after the movement was launched. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, whether that was to simply be an ally to those voicing their experiences or curating events locally,” Thies said via email. “Having a multicultural identity from living overseas and fighting my own battle with mental health issues, I recognized just how important this movement was – for myself, as well as marginalized communities/identities that need a platform to express themselves.”

Construction paper and markers were provided, allowing for students and faculty to write what aspect of their identities they wanted to be seen for. 

While sitting at the table, it became clear that many who came to make signs had never had to think about their identities as multifaceted. A discussion that was started at the table was how focused human rights movements usually are on just one aspect of an individual’s identity. Many found it refreshing how #IExist created a space for all, giving a new definition to what it means to be an intersectional movement. 

Although the event is over, #IExist encourages students to participate by posting on social media holding a sign or a story that highlights your own identity, along with the hashtags #IExist, #IExistMovement and #IExistMinnesota, or by following #IExist pages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. One can partner with other organizations, both on and off campus, show up to other peaceful protests or share artwork in public settings. 

#IExist chose to be kept as a movement, not as an organization to keep it accessible for all who wanted to be a part of it. For more information on what is happening and how you can be involved, follow I Exist Movement on Facebook and visit the official website at