Welcome Black DePaul kicks off black student experience

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If one wanted to have an understanding of unity at DePaul, attending “Welcome Black DePaul” would have provided a glimpse. The event was held Friday, Sept. 20 on the first floor of the Student Center in Lincoln Park and was an opportunity for black students and staff to come together, network and for students to learn more about student organizations catered for black students.

The room was decorated with black tablecloths and balloons in red, green and black – colors representing the Black Diaspora. The event started off with introductions from various staff and faculty extending their welcomes to students, talking about their individual roles at DePaul and why these events are so important. 

Some of the staff and faculty were the Coordinator of the Black Cultural Center, Cory Barnes, Chief of Staff Steve Stoute, Associate Vice President in the Division of Student Affairs Rico Tyler and Director of Advising in the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. Felicia Richardson-McGee.

After Minister Jené Colvin said a prayer, everyone was called by table to get food. The room was filled with members of the community and students connecting and reconnecting with one another and with staff. One could even catch members of the Tau Mu chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority strolling to Beyoncé’s version of “Before I Let Go.”

“Welcome Black DePaul” is not just an isolated event, but part of a series of signature events known as the Black Student Experience (BSE). 

Barnes has been working at DePaul since October 2017. He is coordinating the BSE, but he is not only focusing on the needs of black students.

“There was a little research done in an assessment that there are needs of both students and faculty and staff who are trying to survive and make the most of being here at a PWI (predominantly white institution),” Barnes said. 

During this event, two students served as facilitators for introducing some of the black student organizations and asking attendees questions about the needs of DePaul’s black student population. Organizations represented were Sankofa, Black Student Union, African Student Association, Roots to Ends, Sisters Together Recognizing Our Never-Ending Growth (S.T.R.O.N.G), the Nu Rho chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha (Alphas) fraternity and National Association of Black Accountants. Each organization had members of the executive board speak about their respective organizations with a small PowerPoint projected behind them. 

Keith Norward is a sophomore majoring in political science. This is his first year serving on the executive board of one of the black student organizations.

“I’m excited to be a member and connect with other black students,” Norward said. “I think that this year is going to be a really good year.” 

Student facilitators Christine Augustin and Malik Joseph asked the attendees, “What do you need to be successful at DePaul” and, “What commitment are you willing to make tonight for the black community for the upcoming year?” 

When answering the first question, some attendees shouted out “money,” “support” and “community.” When some mentioned “motivation” and “focus,” there were a lot of snaps as a form of acknowledgement and praise. For the second question, someone answered “time,” “networking” and “forgiveness.” 

Camille Barrera, a freshman majoring in neuroscience, was one of the attendees at Welcome Black DePaul. She feels that the event exceeded her expectations because she had a good time.

“It’s a great way to meet other people because I haven’t been out that much,” Barrera said. 

The event ended with dancing. Students got out of their seats to dance to songs such as “Wobble” and “Cupid Shuffle.” Also members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta and Sigma Gama Rho sororities strolled to “Back That Thang Up” by Juvenile. 

Before the dancing started, Director of the Office of Multicultural Student Success Kim Everette made closing remarks that reflected on the idea of kindred. 

“I want you to remember the ones who checked you with love whenever you were wrong,” she said.

If one wanted to spell “community” without “unity,” it would be impossible. The themes of Welcome Black DePaul were community and kindred.