Multicultural Reception creates space for sharing experiences

Photo by Paolo Miyashiro

The Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance hosted the Multicultural Welcome Back Reception for People of Color at the Trustees Pavilion on Sept. 23. The event was open to students, faculty and staff of color, as well as allies.

Attendees were greeted by the new Associate Director for Equity, Diversity Inclusion and Compliance Rachel Sawyer, and Title IX Director Kat McGee. They were encouraged to sit next to each other at the tables and enjoy upbeat music playing in the background, adding to the cordial atmosphere.

The first half of the event focused on an interactive bingo game. Instead of being covered with numbers, each square of the board contained a quirky trait ranging from “Has lived in another country” to “Is wearing three or more colors.” Participants filled in their boards by having other attendees sign a square that applied to them.

Soon everyone was pacing the room attempting to complete a board. Exchanging signatures led to light conversations and jokes, filling the Pavilion with warm laughter that distracted from the gloomy weather outside. Finally, Ramapo student Samantha Rodriguez called out her victory. For her prize, Sawyer promised to buy her a coffee.

When asked how it felt to be the winner, Rodriguez replied, “I’m excited to meet new people, and that’s what the bingo was about, so that was fun.”

After the game, attendees continued to sit and chat. Khalisa Hameed, the Officer Manager for Women’s Center and LGBTQ+ Services, and President of the Kappa Upsilon Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated talked about her college and work experiences over time. Undergraduate students excitedly shared goals for college, and their recent accomplishments.

Despite most attendees never meeting before, it was easy to open up about personal topics such as feeling disconnected from one’s ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and struggling to navigate food restrictions. It was a place for speaking freely and bonding over shared experiences, both good and bad.

As the event wound down, many seemed reluctant to leave. All were encouraged to take the leftover snacks with them to their dorms or their next destinations. When asked how she felt about the event, Sawyer shared her enthusiasm.

"I would say thanks to everyone for coming out and coming to the multicultural events,” Sawyer said. “I look forward to more events coming out from the new multicultural center."

As this event was an absolute hit with students, staff and faculty alike, the next one is certain to be a similar success.