Events inspire others, share culture

Lindsey Bennett and Alexis Eccles

IVCC hosted a variety of events for Black History Month on campus throughout the month of February.

Aris Showers, president of the Black Student Association, is in charge of organization for meetings, planning agenda, and working on events planned throughout the month. This is her first year as president of the association, and she spends much of her time promoting the club and collaborating with others.

“The Diversity Team helps us tremendously,” she says, “It’s always great working with them. I feel it’s important that we lend a hand to each other in order to reach more IVCC students.”

Together, the BSA and the Diversity Team worked with Country Catering to create the Soul Food Buffet in the cafeteria on Feb. 17. Along with live music from The Charles Walker Band, a taste of authentic southern style food from the recipe boxes of the BSA members was served for free to the students and staff of IVCC.

The BSA was founded in 2013 by Yulandist Brown, who also founded the “Inspired by the Dream” speeches. Brown said while talking to members of the BSA, she listened to them talk about their studies.

“It’s hard.” Brown says, about the everyday struggles students face, “I was looking for a way to keep students encouraged.” She asked a question that became the base for the speeches. “What is your dream?” she asked. “Tell me. People need to hear.”

On Feb. 24, six speakers did just that, standing in front of an audience in a conference room and shared stories of inspiration, perseverance and motivation. Chairs and tables had to be moved to accommodate the number of people present, and one by one, the six stood up to speak to the audience about what inspired them in hopes of inspiring others.

The event host Yulandist Brown said, “This is all about students giving you information from their heart as to what is their dream and what has inspired them to go after that dream.” Brown encouraged the audience to take away from the presentations: “Look for some inspiration. Grab something.”

Yvette Lucas stepped up first, delivering a monologue from last year’s play “Legacy” in the role of a black abolitionist from the 1800’s.

“Growing up, I was taught that all people have a right to be free. That all people have a right to a good education.” The chattering crowd was silent as she continued speaking in her role: “All people have the right to earn a living by any honest means.” In her role, she talked about the importance of education, the need for all to understand the meaning of the word ‘freedom.’

Brown spoke in between each student, introducing them and interacting with the audience, earning laughs and agreements. She commented on the monologue, mentioning the impressiveness of writers having the creativity to create a voice from years in the past.

“What’s in you?” She directed her question to the audience. “What’s creative in you?”

Arinze Ochuba spoke next, talking about days when nothing seems to go right.

“Doomsdays, I call them,” he comments. But those days don’t keep him down. “I smile, actually.”

Ochuba spoke of his hopes for the future: “I want to help the world in my own way. I want to be remembered for something important.”

Ochuba finished talking about his inspiration by encouraging the audience to remember everyone has days when things looks bad, encouraging the audience to fight back against despair.

Josi Malone, 23, obtained her first job when she was 9, delivering papers. She’s held different jobs throughout her life, but decided to come to IVCC and pursue her education. She works and studies hard at the same time, reading her textbooks and attending all her classes. Her inspiration is to “Make a better life for myself, and my daughter.” She is glad for all the help IVCC provides, offering words of wisdom to the audience.

“Learn how to ask for help,” she encouraged. “You can go to any classroom and get help, as well as the Learning Commons and the Writing Center.” She ended her story with a message to all attending: Believe in yourself.

Nyree Robinson stepped up next, naming his mother and sister inspiration for him. His mother had three children and still managed to get her master’s degree in accounting.

“That’s pretty amazing to me,” he comments. His sister is a physician’s assistant. He sat out of school for two years, unsure of what he wanted to do. He is currently at IVCC, happy with where he is.

“I’m going in forward in life, doing what I love and dream to do.”

Elias Chah explained what keeps him uplifted. “I’ve come to see myself as a unique person,” he explains, and the mindset keeps him positive. He encouraged the audience to keep a positive outlook as well.

“You can make it., he says confidently. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” For him, he says, “It’s not over until I win.”

Tariq Allen was the last speaker to step up in front of the audience. He dreams of stability, financial, emotional and spiritual comfort.

His inspiration is the community he lived in back in Chicago. While not a good area to grow up in, he found himself encouraged, by his family from a young age to be a successful person.

“Everyone wanted me to be successful,” he says. And he’s doing his best to achieve it.

Brown ended the event by leaving the audience with more to think about. She reminded those attending that IVCC has opportunities to assist in achieving one’s own dreams, but, as with the previous speakers, she said success is left up to the individual.

“You can succeed, if you want to, she tells the audience. “You can make it here.”
Keeping up with the themes in the “Inspired by the Dream” speeches, the Diversity Team held the last event of Black History Month on Feb. 29.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Contest takes place during Black History Month and gives a cash prize to the top three winners who have submitted works about civil rights. The contest was started by Amanda Cook-Fesperman and a group of IVCC faculty called the Diversity Team.

The event was created because of the lack of celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on campus. Since school is not in session on King’s birthday, Fesperman created a civil rights writing contest and named it after Dr. King.

This contest is not just about African American civil rights, because Dr. King himself was not just for African American civil rights, but for rights of all people.

According to Cook-Fesperman, students can submit a narrative essay, personal story, poetry or even a play about “anything ranging from gay and lesbian civil rights to women’s rights to disability rights to the rights of Muslim Americans, Hispanic rights . . .” and many other topics. Students are free to write about any civil rights movement that resonates with them in any way they feel they can get their point across best.

The contest is not judged primarily by a student’s writing skill, but the message that comes across in the piece. Cook-Fesperman explains, “Oftentimes, when people think about a writing contest, they think about who’s the best writer. While the entries are certainly judged to some degree on quality of writing, it’s really more of a content contest.”

When submitting a piece for the contest, students turn in their writings to Cook-Fesperman, who takes the contact information off the piece and gives it to three members of the Diversity Team to be evaluated for grammar and spelling, creativity and skill, insight into the civil rights movement, and overall impressions.

The winners of the 2016 MLK essay contest were first place Lisa Chounard-Lewis, second place Payton Deady, and third place Jacob McGeorge and Matthew Phillips. Chounard-Lewis also won third place for a poem.

Showers emphasized the importance of these events to all students: “I think it’s important because we just want people to be aware of other cultures and learn something new and embrace something they don’t know anything about.”