Students consider campus identities in community-wide forum

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, from 6 to 8 p.m., concerned students and members of the Fox Cities Rotary Multicultural Center gathered in the Nathan Marsh Pusey Room for the event “How Far Have We Come?: A Community Conversation.” Hosted by the Committee on Diversity Affairs and the Office of Multicultural Affairs — known as CODA and OMA, respectively — the event facilitated conversation on ethics of equality and was part of the first annual People of Color Empowerment Week.

Starting off the event, junior and president of “All is One! Empowering Women of Color” Brienne Colston talked about the role of the organization, also known as AIO, on the Lawrence campus. “What makes this organization unique is its commitment to providing a safe space for our members to discuss issues that affect themselves and others and to heal,” said Colston.

Ground rules for the conversations were set and included respecting confidentiality, not interrupting others, using time wisely, speaking for yourself and not for others, speaking so others can hear you, and staying on topic.

Attendees were divided into intimate discussion groups with student facilitators of AIO. Questions were asked such as, “How does what you identify as differ from how others identify you,” “What effect does the Lawrence campus have on identity,” “Does the way you identify yourself stop you from participating in certain groups,” and “How do we create these safe spaces on campus?” One group discussed the falsehood of visual indicators, barriers between professions, instances of standing out as a “token” and the exclusiveness associated with Lawrence in the Appleton community.

Freshman Kevin Buckhalton attended the event because of his interest in social justice issues on campus. “I really just want to make a difference. That’s my ultimate goal. Yeah, I’m here to get an education, but I also want to leave my imprint somehow on this school,” said Buckhalton.

According to Sharon Bowen, a volunteer with the Fox Cities Rotary Multicultural Center, “We have done circle events in the community for many years and we are partnering with Lawrence to try to build an interest in doing that on campus.” Commenting on the event, she said, “I learned a lot. It was very informative and I really respect the student leadership on campus.”

The People of Color Empowerment Week was organized by AIO as a celebration of Black History Month. It is sponsored by the Alyssa Marie Paul Grant, Black Student Union, Downer Feminist Council, Lawrence University Community Council and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Events include the “Empower Your Runway Show” on Feb. 22, “Nobody’s Perfect: Race, Perceptions, Media and Body Image” on Feb. 23, “Transformative Sisterhood: A Conversation about Feminism, Womanhood and Solidarity on Campus,” on Feb. 24, “Blogging for Social Justice featuring L.C. Coleman” on Feb. 26, “Special Guest Speaker: Blogger and Author Mia McKenzie” on Feb. 27, “Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Exploring White Privilege” on Feb. 28, and the upcoming “Black History Month: A Beta Psi Nu Perspective” on March 1.