Solidarity in Sovereignty was the public unveiling of the Equity and Inclusion Division here at MCTC. It is a part of the MCTC Strategic Inclusion plan being introduced by Interim Executive Director of Diversity Jay Williams, and MCTC President Sharon Pierce.
The event went from 11 a.m. to about 1 p.m., filling T.1400 where the event was held. There was an opening of African drumming, conducted by three men in traditional garb, followed by a welcoming speech given by Williams, and Pierce.
President Pierce spoke on how as a community we can collaborate effectively to stay harmonious, and that this division is meant to be a celebration of the rich diversity we have here at MCTC.
Two individuals of Lakota heritage, one alumni and one a current student, represented their community, moving the audience with traditional songs and prayers, and by speaking on ways we can collaborate as a people, to work on climate change.
“We are living in a time when it is a radical act to care for Mother Earth, and is a sane act to destroy her,” said Isaac Deragon, American Indian Success program coordinator.
Rosa Shannon shared with the audience her journey in creating safe spaces for the latinxs/chicanx community here. She is the advisor for Latinos Unidos for College and Higher Achievement, a program for students in the latinxs community.
Estefania Navarro Hernandez is a current MCTC student and the Stars Scholars advisor, a program designed to bring the benefits of the Power of YOU to eligible undocumented students.
The founder of African American Education Empowerment Program spoke about his experience of creating safe spaces for people we don’t always understand or that we can’t always relate to.
He shared that members of shared communities need their own spaces to truly be healthy and to truly thrive, because to be happy and healthy, it is imperative that you are proud of where you come from.
Lunch was provided by Pow Wow Grounds, and opened up the opportunity for table conversations about equity and inclusion. The event closed much like it opened, with an ending drumming ceremony.
The beginning of the Equity and Inclusion Division did not have a singular origin. Williams spoke on its beginnings. Every school in the state of Minnesota is required to have a diversity plan. An ad hoc committee convened to discuss what MCTC’s plan was.
“It started out with about 40 people for the first couple meetings,” said Williams. “When it came down to it, that plan was written by about 7 people.”
It went through the appropriate avenues for approval.
“We opened it up for review, and got about 30 comments from across the college. We took that, refined it, and submitted it to President’s Council. It was approved. After it was approved, we submitted it to system’s office, and it came back with very high marks and no substantive feedback.”
This plan is accessible to all of the MCTC community. So what will the Equity & Inclusion Division be for students? “We’re kind of a bridge,” said Williams. “A place where you can feel safe.”
Sarah Sharp is the AME Student Coordinator at MCTC, as well as alumni. She also writes for the AME newsletter. She gave her opinion on what the Equity & Inclusion Division means for MCTC in the future, in terms of creating a space where members of every program would come together for constructive conversation.
“My wish would be that minority groups in this space, being in such close proximity would become more comfortable talking with one another,” said Sharp. “It would be a place for discussions in a broader context, a place for cross-cultural dialogue where stories could be shared that center more on the culture of each group, and not the mainstream narrative.”
There are many cultural narratives not told in the mainstream narrative that we miss out on, shares Williams.
“We skip these rich connections between cultural groups.” But in a broader sense, the question is “Can we make this campus work for everybody?”
Sharp also points out that as students, we also have the responsibility to make this division one that is focused on inclusion.
“Our focus is to hear and be heard,” said Sharp. “If we as students want to have a more inclusive campus, we have to take the time to hear students that are different than us, and also be heard. We have to advocate for ourselves and people like us.”