By Karisma Boyd
BLACK History Month at York College has been in full swing since the start of February with not just new faces at the head but with an improved mission as well. Celebrating the heritages of minority students at predominantly white institutions is almost always met with some challenges as event coordinators encourage an inclusive and educational experience. With the help of a particular department, it can be said that compared to last year so far there has been a better turnout.
The Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion (SDI) identified by York College is a group that provides social and educational programs for the growing of the diverse student body. They oversee diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives on campus. Director of SDI & Spiritual life Alex Hernández-Siegel joined YCP just last year (after working around the country for the last 24) and already worked toward impactful and efficient diversity campaigns as he took notes during his time at other institutions.
“Looking at models of other universities I’ve worked at, what I felt first and foremost especially for heritage months as well as Black History Month, I wanted to really emphasize more on the creativity and the programs they wanted to put together versus worrying about the mechanics.” Hernández-Siegel says while discussing collaborations with campus organizations like Owning my Blackness (OMB), Sueno-Latina, Black Student Union (BSU), and more.
Hernández-Siegel says he felt that these clubs were at a disadvantage considering they were trying to host events just about every day of the month and without secured funding would have to fundraise, which was considered unachievable for all events with the limited time in which these things had to be due.
But thankfully SDI was able to secure events such as Love the Skin You’re In, an event held Wednesday with Anisa Hajimumin, a Black female professional life coach and consultant who gave skincare advice and product recommendations for students in attendance.
Although these programs are open to all, it also gives students the opportunity to learn about the differences between one another while providing them with the ability to become knowledgeable and carry information in or outside of their community. In order for these events to be successful and yet are still effective in its purpose, coordinators have to take advantage of what drives students to participate.
Campus Activities Board (CAB) also has done collaborations with other organizations for their most popular events that average about 100 or more students per event such Bingo with BSU, BHM Trivia, and recently a comedy segment with Georgia Comedian Mia Johnson last week in collaboration with Owning My Blackness. With these events already passed or in the process of happening, it creates a rich and fun environment while also educating students and creating a social environment for students of diverse backgrounds to come together.
Overall, the turnout of the events this week hosted by organizations that encourage diversity and inclusion have set a new bar for York College to continue to create a welcoming environment for new and attending students.
As Black organizations such as BSU and OMB continue on their mission this month to empower, educate and elevate, it’s safe to say that with the help of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion – which includes Hernández-Siegel, Ines M. Ramirez and Kathy L. Shaub – using their platform to support these groups shows potential to what the future may hold for York College.
Hernández-Siegel agrees. “My goal here is that we continue to build partnerships across the board on how we communicate and care for one another,” he says. “I feel that we really reform our work by listening to students in terms of what their needs and concerns are.”
Karisma Boyd is a senior majoring in Professional Writing.
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