The skies were grim and heavy with rain during Wednesday’s welcome ceremony for African-American students, the third multicultural event being held this week by CU’s Center for Multicultural Affairs.
“I’m really happy CMA has created a week for colored people to unite in the beginning, so we can have people to turn to throughout the year, because that’s really the only way we can retain our numbers,” said Emem Ekiko, a senior sociology pre-medical major and president of the Black Student Alliance.
Students started gathering around Regent’s northern lawn around 5 p.m. to enjoy another evening of multiculturalism and free food. Shredded pork, chicken wings and ribs, all drenched in barbeque sauce, were served along with coleslaw, potato salad and cake for dessert.
“I like events like these because it gives people a chance to see other people of color they don’t usually see around campus, because we’re such a small margin in such a large campus,” said Brittany Jackson, a junior psychology major. “CMA’s done a good job at promoting assimilation since I was a freshman.”
However, as the gray skies began to grumble with rain, some of the black students’ viewpoints on issues of racism and diversity matched the stormy mood of the weather. A few African-American students passionately shared discontent.
“The diversity on campus is very lacking,” said Jasper Peters, a senior philosophy major. “It’s just sad. They need to work to promote a more welcoming atmosphere towards colored people, both inside and outside the classroom. I know people who went here 15 years ago and it was a problem then, and it’s still a problem now.”
Many people were unsure of the specific actions they would like to see CU to take to treat this diversity conflict, but the voices calling out for reform continued.
“I think they should raise awareness within the freshman class. Many new students have never had interaction with people of color, you know, your typical, white freshman, so I think there should be more events to promote interracial interaction, as well as those that’ll help to get those white freshmen involved in the colored community,” said Medhat Ahmed, a senior MCD biology and ethnic studies major.
However, one student is impressed with CMA’s actions to integrate several cultures into the student community.
“I think CMA has been very supportive in outreaching to the community. This past week has been amazing. It supports all cultures of the world while providing a great resource for students,” said Arthur Weston, a senior Spanish major.
Other students are taking their discontent and turning it into motivation to take the issues into their own hands.
“The lack of diversity on this campus is sad. It’s been the same for the past 30 to 40 years. Whenever there’s a problem involving drugs or alcohol, the university has no problem cleaning up their images, but as soon is it relates to diversity, they drag their feet and the same problems exist today. My mission is to improve campus conditions for all African-Americans so they can have a better experience than I did,” said Ekiko, the Black Student Alliance president. “We want to be college students without having to be activists at the same time, but if we just lie down, then the system doesn’t change.”
Despite resentment toward current conditions, Debbie Frazier, director for CMA’s African-American student services, remained positive about the situation.
“I can see why, judging from the past and recent incidents, as to why some of the students feel angry,” Frazier said. “But I’m hoping things will change with the new reforms in the school and with our new chancellor, Peterson, towards improving the campus environment for all students on campus. It’s just hard, you know, because our community is so small, so many of the students feel as if they have to counteract that with their passion.”
But Ekiko hopes that freshmen who are newly involved in the black community on campus will be reminded of a few encouraging words: “The struggle may seem unbearable, but we will rise.”