‘This is your home’: Students dedicate Morris Family Multicultural Student Center

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Adrian Rodriguez, associate vice president for student life of diversity and multicultural student affairs, leads a tour to the Kansas State Student Governing Association in the Morris Family Multicultural Student Center on Nov 18, 2020. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Editors Note: The original version of this story incorrectly identified Victor Andrews. Andrews is the vice president of the Native American Student Body. Additionally, Native American Student Body president Laura Baldwin and secretary Tessa Ervine read the Indigenous Land Acknowledgement. The article has been updated to reflect this. The Collegian regrets this error.

The Kansas State community celebrated the Morris Family Multicultural Student Center opening with a student dedication late Wednesday night. A limited amount of people attended in-person while others watched a live stream.

The Native American Student Body president Laura Baldwin and secretary Tessa Ervine opened the program by presenting the Indigenous Land Acknowledgment. The acknowledgment recognizes K-State as the first land grant university and it sits on stolen land.

Trumanue Lindsey, director of diversity and multicultural student life, began the presentations by acknowledging the meaning of the new center.

“One of the things that continued to come up time and time again is our students communicated that they wanted this building to be a home away from home,” Lindsey said.And so what you will see with some of these cultural practices, these are all things that traditionally you will see that individuals will do to dedicate a new home when they move into a new home. This is your home.”

Those who attended the in-person event received a lapel. The lapel, created as an identifying emblem for the center, consists of multiple shapes and colors symbolizing different things, Lindsey said. Lindsey said unity and diversity was the theme that he thought of when thinking of the building.

The first thing you will notice with the emblem, Lindsey said, is that it runs in a circular motion.

One of the common cultural American practices is having a wedding ring, right? And that wedding ring is in a circular motion because it symbolizes your love and that it should never end — that it should be timeless,” Lindsey said.

In addition to the shape, the lapel contained multiple colors. The blue represents inspiration, the red represents passion, the green represents growth and new beginnings, the yellow represents joy and the purple represents K-State.

Various multicultural groups celebrated the dedication in different ways. The Native American Student Body dedicated a painting to the center.

Victor Andrews, vice president of the Native American Student Body and graduate student in kinesiology, said the organization hoped to have a smudging ceremony but was unable to do so because of the weather.

The painting, made by Bunky Echo-Hawk, pictured a Native American man with a mask over his mouth and nose that had the words “Land back” written on it.

“We had originally intended to host Bunky Echo-Hawk’s art exhibition in person but were unable to for the safety of others,” Andrews said. “We were successful in integrating the art exhibition in 2020’s KSUnite event. Bunky Echo-Hawk had met with the Native American Student Body prior to the event to discuss current climate and issues faced by Native American students on campus. He then morphed our discussion into this beautiful painting we see today.”

The Asian American Student Union presented a lucky bamboo, a money tree and a broom for the center.

Annie Cortes, president of AASU, said an old broom in the house carries old and negative energy and burdens.

“To prevent that, the new broom that is brought in symbolizes a fresh, new beginning,” Cortes said.

She also said there are many different Asian cultures and while they weren’t able to represent all of them, one thing many of the cultures have in common is balance and appreciation for ordinary objects, such as a broom.

The Black Student Union and the African Students Union presented together. They poured libations to celebrate the opening of the center. The pouring of libations is an African tradition that involves pouring water or other liquids.

Brandon Clark, program coordinator for DMSA, gave the introduction for the presentation.

“As we pour the water this evening, there will be prayers that will be said,” Clark said. “And we hope that by saying these prayers out loud, that these prayers will be activated and become real and alive.”

Two students then poured libations into snake plants, a plant native to parts of western Africa. The plants will remain in the center permanently.

The Hispanic American Leadership Organization celebrated the dedication by bringing bread and salt into the center, a common practice in Hispanic culture, Lindsey said.

And just like everything else that we’ve talked about today, each of these items, though they seem simple, have symbolism behind them,” Lindsey said. “The bread, as a symbol for food longevity. It is said that when you bring bread into the home that each individual that occupies that space shall never lack for food in the house. The salt that is presented here symbolizes love and flavor. It is said that when presented with the salt, the occupants will always have love and they will live a life that is flavorful.”

Additionally, a poem was read in dedication to the center.

Although a shared meal was not possible, attendees received cookies to celebrate the dedication ceremony.

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Hi there! I'm Julie Freijat. I'm the managing editor of the Collegian. In the past, I've served as an editor on the news and culture desks and worked closely with the multimedia staff. I love science and technology, hate poor movie dialogue and my favorite subreddit is r/truecrime.