From Monday, March 26 to Saturday March 31, St. Mary’s celebrated cultural diversity on campus through Multicultural Week, organized by the DeSousa-Brent Scholars. Through various events and activities, the week aimed to, “promote cultural diversity on campus through different events and activities in order for people to learn about one another, different cultures, and countries,” according to Fatima Dainkeh ’15, one of the student organizers.
The DeSousa-Brent Scholars Program, “cultivates the academic and leadership potential of talented students from traditionally underrepresented groups at St. Mary’s,” according to their website. The students then organize various leadership events, such as the viewing of the documentary Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath in September. “Every year the first-year DeSousa-Brent Scholars develop ‘leadership projects’ to promote inclusiveness on campus or beyond St. Mary’s. This is the first and only Multicultural Week … so far,” said Sybol Anderson, Associate Professor of Philosophy.
“The four student organizers, who are all first-year DeSousa-Brent Scholars – Fatima Dainkeh, Roderick Street, Amber Fryza, and Darrell Jackson – designed the program,” said Anderson. “The four programs – cultural show, music in the Campus Center, diversity festival, and diversity panel on gender – are ideas close to the hearts of each of the organizers. They each created sort of a ‘dream event’ they really wanted to bring to the campus community.”
The major goal of the week was to discuss how to be fully inclusive and appreciative of world’s cultures. “Before Spring Break we asked our student body during dinner to sign posters with countries/continents they will like to see represented on campus!” said Dainkeh. “Throughout this week we had different days (Asia, Europe, Africa, The Americas, The Caribbean) representing a certain region/continent and we tried to encourage the SMCM campus through emails, and social networks such as Facebook, and Twitter, to participate in this week by wearing any piece of clothing/accessory that represents their culture according to the days.”
On Friday March 23, there was a, “very successful (and fun),” car wash and water balloon fight to raise funds for the Diversity Festival on Saturday the 31, according to Anderson. The planned Diversity Panel to discuss gender inequality and anti-human slurs on Wednesday, March 28th was postponed. On Friday the 30 at the Glendening Annex, the organizers hosted a cultural show that featured performances by SMCM students educating the student body on various cultures and foods from around the world. On Saturday the 31, the Diversity festival included a Diverstiy Fair/Walk on the campus patio that featured activities that explored forms of diversity and a Diversity Workshop hosted by senior Ana Palomino.
The week was a partial success. Students participated in the week by writing on posters in the campus center headed “MY CULTURE IS:,” and a few students dressed up for the days of the week. However, the organizers were frustrated with the overall response by the student body. “We have heard some insulting, ignorant, and racist comments about Multicultural Week from our schoolmates and also about words on our posters,” said Dainkeh. “Unfortunately, we feel like we’ve been getting more of a negative energy towards our project than positive energy.”
“I understand that some people are tired of hearing about and talking about diversity, but that’s no reason to be insensitive or rude,” said Anderson in response to the negativity. “The organizers are trying to do something inclusive and positive, and they’re doing it well.”
Despite the problem, Anderson remains unfazed and hopeful for the future DeSousa-Brent leadership programs. “We appreciate all the support members of the campus community have shown for the DeSousa-Brent first-year leadership projects over the years,” said Anderson. “Thriving on diversity is part of the college’s mission, and Multicultural Week is one of many efforts to bring our mission to life.”