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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Look to the community first for diversity awareness

Throughout our American history, black Americans have made monumental change in our society. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Billie Holiday, Spike Lee, Iman, Langston Hughes and Barack Obama have all made a lasting impact on this country. Not only have many African Americans made an impact nationally, but UW students of color have made great changes on campus that continue to affect students today.

UW-Madison has a history of an active and socially conscious student body. From 1967 to 1972 the University supported an Afro-American center on campus that was started by students. Originally located on the corner of Johnson and Charter Street, the center was moved to a small yellow house on the 900 block of University Avenue.

In the spring of 1986, Kappa Sigma Fraternity hosted an around the world party, which included a Harlem room with four men in black face and afro wigs. Watermelon punch and fried chicken were served at the party. After this event no action was taken by the University. This was due to a new ruling that took affect in 1987 stating that any organization on campus found guilty of racist acts would be punished. The fraternity apologized for their actions in 1987.

As a response to this incident, a group of students headed by Charles Holley of the Black Student Union protested and called for a safe space for students of color on campus. After working with the Chancellor Donna Shalala, students and the administration came up with a document called the Charles Holley report. This report created a committee to examine the cause of racial tension on campus.

One result from the report was the MultiCultural Student Center founded in 1988, which has been located on the second floor of the Red Gym since 1998. The Madison Plan—a 10-year plan to increase diversity on campus—was also created from the Holley report. The latest plan, Plan 2008, ended last fall. The Multi Cultural Student Coalition held a forum for students last semester to discuss the future of diversity at the University. The new diversity plan from the administration is called Inclusive Excellence and was created by Vice Provost Dr. Damon Williams. Inclusive Excellence explains that embracing diversity is not only about learning about the ""other,"" but learning about ourselves.

According to Katrina Flores, Chawka Barrows, a member of BSU, was a founding member of the MCSC. With the MSC in place students felt more needed to be done to support not only students of color but all students on campus. MCSC became an important organization which provided programming and social justice training to students on campus, as well as working as a link between students, the community and the administration. MCSC is well-known for the Hip Hop week every April. Breaking the Law, an annual Hip Hop week event, was started by Jarius King. It is now the biggest international break dancing contest in the Midwest. Today, he MultiCultural Student Collation is one of the largest student organizations on campus and continues to serve the needs of students by providing direct services to help create diversity awareness.

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Clearly, students of color on campus have been, and continue to, work toward a diverse campus. So, this Black History Month think not only about our great African American leaders who made a impact on a national level, but think also about the local students of color whom helped make this campus what it is today.

Shyla Gorham is a member of MCSC. We welcome all feedback. Please send all responses to





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