Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean of the Faculty Kimberly Barrett shares the story of Ruby Bridges. Photos by Marieke de Koker
In an effort to promote cultural awareness, students gathered for s’mores, hot chocolate and fireside stories this past week for the Bead and Read event in the Diversity Center. From Monday, Oct. 2 to Friday, Oct. 6, at 5 p.m., students met before the fireplace to hear cultural stories told by faculty. A new storyteller each evening shared personal childhood tales, historical stories and folklore from various cultures around the world. During the storytelling, attendees were encouraged to make bracelets that spelled out “Unity” on them.
The main goal of the event was to “unveil cultural awareness through stories as well as get to know the faculty and staff on a deeper level,” said Diversity Center Coordinator Chris Vue. “We are trying to bridge that gap between students and faculty and staff. They can connect with the students and bring them out of the realm of them being faculty and staff.” The Diversity Center offers a welcoming, inclusive place for students to thrive, and the Bead and Read event “created that organic vibe so people are invited into the space,” said Vue.
Associate Dean of Students for Diversity Pa Lee Moua kicked off the week with a story about the importance of gardening and the earth in the Hmong culture. Director of Volunteer and Community Service Programs Kristi Hill shared a story from her childhood and connected with the students. Associate Dean of Students for Campus Programs Paris Wicker ‘08 told a story about black hair and discussed with students the culture and identity that comes along with it. Margaret Paek, instructor of dance, read a story and shared her narrative of how she came to be at Lawrence. Closing the week of fireside chats, Dr. Kimberly Barrett, vice president for diversity and inclusion and associate dean of the faculty, read the story of Ruby Bridges and discussed its importance to her.
“It’s an awesome gathering moment,” said sophomore Shaun Brown. Students who attended the event enjoyed the atmosphere and cultural significance of the stories. Freshman Imani Duhe commented on how “each person has a different narrative to share.” Attendees shared that they liked the importance of the stories and the mixing of literature and culture.
The Diversity Center is hoping that this event will help bridge the gap between faculty and students and create a space outside of the classroom where students can get to know the staff better. “Even though we have our own jobs,” said Vue, “we can come back together at the end of the day. We are all still human.”