The fourth annual KSUnite held its events over Zoom and YouTube Live this year, which led to “groypers” sending spam messages in the comments.
Despite that, viewers listening to speakers talk about their personal experiences, as well as hopes for cultural improvement at Kansas State.
The events kicked off with opening remarks from President Richard Myers followed by messages from three of K-State’s affinity groups — The Indigenous Faculty and Staff Alliance, Alianza and the Black Faculty and Staff Alliance — as well as student speakers.
The theme of this year’s KSUnite is “Difference Makes Us Stronger.”
“KSUnite is a movement that joins the entire University together to appreciate and value inclusion for our community,” Myers said.
Trumanue Lindsey, director of Diversity and Multicultural Student Life and chair of Black Faculty and Staff Alliance, said one thing creating division among Americans is people’s differences.
“We have paid attention to what makes us different and it’s created a lot of challenges,” Lindsey said. “It’s created and birthed this idea of hate and had encouraged isolation.”
Lindsey said seeking out the experiences of those different from us may not be the ultimate solution, but a solution to put K-State in a greater place.
Victor Andrews, doctoral student in kinesiology, said being a Native American at K-State has been difficult for him.
“It’s very common for me to walk around Manhattan itself and see many caricatures of Native Americans,” Andrews said, “And then on campus be reminded of ignorance as individuals intend to use those caricatures and dramatize Hollywood stereotypes of Native Americans.”
Andrews is a member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe of Schurz, Nevada.
“We push that K-State is a family, and unfortunately at K-State, I can’t express myself as a family,” Andrews said. “My ability to express my religion at K-State is hindered by its current policies.”
“K-State is only here because it is a land-grab institution,” Andrews continued. “It’s even harder to know that a certain group of individuals recognizes the wrong that was done to a certain group of peoples, yet commonly forgets or ignores us.”
Andrews said it is important to strive more and make things better for Native Americans.
“When people leave and finish high school, they know that there are 50 states,” Andrews said. “But not many – if any at all – are taught there are 574 federally recognized tribes.”
The first plenary speaker, Bunky Echo-Hawk, an internationally known visual artist, has showcased his live paintings in major venues throughout the country. As a member of the Pawnee tribe, his approach to interactive live art is a modernization of traditional art forms.
“Times are changing,” Echo-Hawk said. “We have a voice as indigenous people and that voice is not just one where we can speak or we can yell and make noise, that voice comes from a place that is attached to that DNA that goes back from generations upon generations.”
Echo-Hawk said in Pawnee culture, people would gather in an earth lodge — usually during winter months — with an artist. The artist would have a stretched hide and paints ready, engaged in dialogue with the audience to determine a significant event that took place the previous year and through group conversation, the artist would paint the event.
Echo-Hawk ended his session with some Q&A with the audience. These questions will be then turned into a painting by Echo-Hawk himself for the Morris Family Multicultural Student Center.
He will unveil his painting at 5 p.m.