SDSU gifts flag to France as symbol of solidarity

by Natalia Xibille, Contributor

San Diego State’s School of Art and Design presented a French flag with students’ signatures and condolences to a university in France on Tuesday as a symbol of solidarity following the Paris terror attacks.

The interior design director of SDSU’s art school, Kotaro Nakamura, and his wife were watching TV in their living room on Friday, Nov. 13, when they heard the capital city was under attack.

As new information was released and the death toll escalated, they felt the need to do something to help.

“Seeing what was unfolding in Paris, we had to do something about it,” Nakamura said. “So that’s how we started.”

Nakamura said he rushed to the store and bought the red, white and blue cloth, and then his wife began constructing a French flag.

Nakamura contacted SDSU Director of International Programs Giancarlo Taylor to establish contact with a university in France.

Taylor agreed with the project and started calling universities.

“It’s kind of parallel to what the U.S. went through on 9/11,” Taylor said. “We wanted to make sure we show support.”

Taylor reached the Institute for American Universities College, which has a campus in Aix-en-Provence, France, where SDSU students can study. They arranged for college officials to come to SDSU and be presented with Nakamura’s French flag in person.

The 6-by-12-foot flag was hung from a balcony of the art building that overlooked Interstate 8 for three days. It was then put on display Thursday, Nov. 19 and Monday, Nov. 23 to be signed by students.

Among these students was mechanical engineering junior Donato Moran.

“It was a horrible event,” Moran said. “I think it’s pretty cool that we are reaching out to another part of the world to show that we care about them.”

The flag was covered with comments about unity and peace that were written in all different kinds of languages.

“I think it’s good to just show unity,” liberal studies senior Mariam Noureddine said. “It doesn’t matter where we’re from.”

Similar acts of solidarity on social media, such as Facebook’s profile picture filter and the wide-spread posting of the Paris peace symbol, have been criticized by some as being pointless and not helping the cause, but Nakamura disagrees.

As a specialist in disaster recovery, Nakamura has helped people recover from devastating events like the one that occurred in Paris. Based on his research he believes giving support to victims of disasters through acts of solidarity gives them strength to rebuild and move on with their lives.

“Little things like (social media) accumulate and build a bigger community,” Nakamura said. “The bigger and stronger the community, the faster and better they will recover.”

He hopes acts like this will help with the recovery in France and build a bridge between SDSU students and students in France.

“I feel like I haven’t done anything, and I really can’t do anything,” graphic design senior Stacey Cresencia said. “This is something really small, but it’s still a nice gesture and a way of giving hope.”