This spring marks a full year that I have been a student here at APU, as well as the second February where I have seen nothing around campus to celebrate Black History Month. Even with the increase of diversity among the freshman class this year, can we really label APU culturally diverse when a month that recognizes a specific culture is ignored?
Now before I continue, yes, I am a black student here on campus, and I am very proud of my heritage. This doesn’t mean I’m an extremist for the black community who is trying to create tension or animosity between races here on campus. If anything, I’m just pointing out my observations in my time here thus far.
In my opinion, APU is moving in the right direction toward being culturally diverse, but to say that this campus is already there would be a lie. Culture week and the global fashion show last fall are the strongest promotions of other cultures I’ve seen in my time here.
Although it is great some black culture is represented in the African aspect every now and then, there hasn’t been anything dedicated to Black History Month. Yes, there was Gospel Sing earlier in the month, followed by Black Student Association coffeehouse, but that doesn’t come close to fully representing what Black History Month is really all about.
The celebration’s purpose is to celebrate how far the black culture has come and the many accomplishments that have contributed to building America. This month is also a reminder that racism is wrong and the awareness promoted should be a stepping stone to removing racism from this world that still exists even here at APU. Yes, I said racism exists here at APU.
“The biggest thing that frustrates me with people is that they refuse to believe racism exists,” said recently elected BSA leader Norris Spagner, a senior biblical studies major. “One night I was with a friend of mine, who is also black, sitting in the parking lot behind the weight room after work just having a conversation. We saw some professors walk by going to their car and maybe 10 minutes after they left, Campus safety pulls up to our car. I just don’t believe that would happen to us if we were not black.”
Situations of stereotyping like this are very common here at APU. Blacks only make up 6 percent of the total student population and 4 percent of the traditional undergrad population, according to the student enrollment diversity breakdown. It’s understandable why we African-Americans feel like APU is forcing us to adjust to its culture rather than incorporating our culture into its own to ultimately become one.
For example, during chapel, more contemporary music is being played rather than gospel. On those few occasions when gospel music is played, the majority of people who are not of color sit down. This does not apply to everyone, but it is an important point to consider. How do you think that makes us feel?
After talking to representatives in the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity Office about the lack of recognition around campus for black history, I was told that other than Gospel Sing and the coffeehouse, most everything else falls on the student-led organizations.
For example, I’ve seen LASA represented multiple times on the Cougar Walk promoting varied aspects of its culture. If that’s the case, it’s time for BSA to make a move to become more active, more persistent in being heard and not stopping because the first door is closed.
Spagner said one way to diversify the APU community is to have more students of color in leadership roles, such as resident advisor positions.
“Also stepping out of comfort zones making relationships with others not like ourselves would bridge the gap to becoming one,” Spagner said.
Our campus Scripture for the year is Ephesians 4, which talks about being a community. If we as a whole want to truly embrace that concept, which also is a cornerstone of the university, we have to become one. Part of becoming one is understanding a variety of cultures, and part of understanding a variety of cultures is learning about that culture’s history. It could be as simple as announcing during chapel one fact of black history most people wouldn’t know.
I love this school, and I know God led me here for a divine purpose. I challenge APU as a community to let this year be the last year Black History Month goes ignored. I challenge everyone to break those comfort zones and try to build relationships with people different from your culture. Then and only then will we as a university be able to say we are culturally diverse and upholding the cornerstone of community. And if reading this rubs you in the wrong way, I just a have a simple question for you: Why?