The Student Programming Board(SPB) teamed up with SUU’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the International Affairs Office to host a week of events to celebrate diversity, culture and unity. Identity Week has been a SUU Student Association and clubs tradition for five years, but the torch was passed to SPB for the first time this year.
“Identity Week is celebrating the beautiful mixture of loving our uniqueness and coming together as united Thunderbirds,” SPB president, Sarah Jones said. “We want all students to feel included and welcomed at our events.”
The week kicked off with Monday’s event “We are all T-Birds”. The letters “I AM…” on blackboards welcomed passing students to write what makes them unique. “I am a Feminist,” “I am Latino” and other statements covered the boards and created an empowering backdrop for polaroid photos to be taken.
Tuesday’s “Identity Week Fashion Show” lacked in sign-ups but quickly morphed into a cultural talent show. Students came to the Student Center Ballroom and supported each other in the spontaneous showcase to sing or play an instrument.
A religion panel took place on Wednesday for attendees to share their beliefs and answer questions from other students. The panel began with one member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church, and two Non Denominational Christians. As the event continued, the panel was joined by an Atheist and a Spiritualist. Members of the audience texted in questions of religion like thoughts on the afterlife, keeping the faith and other practices.
“Sometimes religious discussions can be confrontational but this [event] wasn’t at all,” Brie Ward, a sophomore and Non Denominational Christian representative said. “Everyone remained professional, we would just answered the question and moved onto the next person.”
The sharing of beliefs and culture continued in Thursday’s event, “Love in Many Cultures”. The International Student Affairs office provided booths in the Living Room for activities like Henna art and Origami lessons. Country booths including Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands educated students about wedding and Valentine’s Day traditions from across the world.
“In my culture, Valentine’s Day is the opposite of [America],” said Rui Toreoll, a Japanese international student. “In Japan, women are the ones who normally give gifts to the guys, it’s very stressful. I feel bad for the men here.”
Identity Week events ended strong on Friday with leadership speaker and rights advocate Angelica Ross. Ross, a Transgender African-American woman, shared her story of self discovery and road to success in the business world.
“No one needed to know that I was Trans, Black, White, Buddhist, thin… As long as I can get the job done.” She encouraged the audience to learn and live their truth and to do so with confidence and poise. She said, “Wherever you are, bring whatever you are,” Ross said.
The Student Programming Board, in partnership with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the International Affairs office, were proud of each event and their ability to heal and unify the student body.
“Working with the other organizations was really helpful and ultimately created great events. I’m very proud of the end result,” SPB Identity Week Director, Brooklyn Whitney said.
Photos By Ansleigh Mikesell