For generations, prominent leaders have spent their lives working to improve racial and ethnic relations both in the U.S. and around the world.
The doors of opportunity opened in 1956, when Dalip Singh Saund became the first Indian-American, Asian-American and Sikh-American elected to Congress. In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. inspired millions with his “I Have a Dream” speech. Now, students at K-State are working to promote and embrace cultural differences. The Black Student Union held its annual Represent event Saturday night to do just that.
Represent is an annual event the BSU organizes to promote other multicultural organizations on the K-State campus. The theme of the night included diversity, expression and involvement.
Angela Muhwezi, vice president for BSU and junior in biology, said the event is a great way to show students how they can get involved with these various groups. She said multicultural events like Represent are essential ways to show students, especially minorities, they are represented on campus.
“I think it’s very, very important,” she said. “The multicultural population here is very small, and a lot of times students may feel drowned out.”
The BSU is one of many organizations on campus available to students. In particular, the BSU works toward promoting cultural awareness, mentoring students and encouraging professional and academic development.
Daniel Jemmott, senior in nutrition and kinesiology, said increasing minority retention rates on campus is one of the goals the BSU works toward.
“K-State is a primarily white establishment, and it’s easy to come to K-State and get lost,” he said.
Currently, 79 percent of students enrolled at K-State identify themselves as caucasian, according to statistics from the Registrar’s Office.
Jemmott said there are often misconceptions when it comes to involvement in multicultural groups on campus. For example, he said just because students are not black, does not mean they cannot join the BSU.
“We encourage others to join,” he said. “We can learn about them and they can learn about us.”
Other multicultural groups who presented or performed at the event included: The Poize Hip Hop Team; HALO, or Hispanic American Leadership Organization; the Japanese Yosakoi Dance Club, Workers of Wisdom and the United Black Voices Gospel Choir. Several sororities and fraternities were also included.
The groups filled the evening with dancing, singing and stepping, as well as information on how to get involved.
Barbara Johnson, captain of the Yosakoi dance team and K-State alumna, said she enjoys the multicultural events and thinks they are an important part of understanding other races and cultures and decreasing tensions between ethnic groups.
“It’s great, but I’d like to see more culture events here,” she said. “I grew up in the 60s, and there was a lot of racial unrest. It’s improved, but there’s a lot that needs to be done still.”
She said while the situation has improved compared to when she was growing up, there are still racial tensions today; especially toward Muslims and Muslim-Americans.
“By understanding and respecting our differences, the situation will improve as far as the political unrest,” she said.
Many in the audience said they found the event very entertaining and recognized the necessity of hosting these types of events.
“It was incredible, I loved it,” said Megan Kirtland, sophomore in marketing. “It’s extremely important that we get the opportunity to come see these groups on campus.”
Jemmott said, overall, the event was a way for ethnic groups and organizations to come together to promote understanding across campus.
“This campus needs more unity,” he said. “We need to be more of a melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds.”
Muhwezi said great strides have been made to promote cultural diversity on campus, but there can always be more.
“There’s never enough improvement, it can always get better and better and better,” she said. “Once you stop, improvement stops.”