Tina Scruggs – email@example.com – Staff Writer
Hundreds of students sweated under the sun last Wednesday on the quad to listen to Jazz Cathcart recite Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on its 50th anniversary.
“I don’t know about you, but that gives me chills every time,” said Lamar Hylton, the director of the Department of Multicultural Students Programs.
Hylton helped organize the event, along with the College Democrats, Black Student Association, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Catholic Campus Ministries, and the Department of Multicultural Student Programs, Hylton said.
Cathcart serves as executive director of the I Have a Dream Foundation, which mentors city youth from 1st grade through high school and aims to give them a scholarship for college.
“My heart was for inner city people right off the gate,” Cathcart said. “Not all of the children we mentor are minorities, but they are all low income.”
Cathcart said he appreciated the diversity on UNC Asheville’s campus.
“I think we have to ask the question of why it’s important to see racial integration. I think you have a good start here, and I wish it was more reflective of the fact that this college seeks out minorities to give them this experience. College is so important,” Cathcart said.
UNCA’s minority population increased to just shy of 10 percent this year. Though the increase is positive, work could still be done in this area, said Hylton.
“Our university is very committed to diversity on a number of different levels,” Hylton said.
UNCA’s community is becoming more diverse. According to university statistics, the campus had around 9.4 percent minorities in spring 2013 (that is, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic and American Indian). In 2010, 8.9 percent identified as non-Caucasian, a 2.7 percent increase from 2006.
The word diversity refers to more than just race, Hylton said, though maybe most people think of racial diversity first.
“We have all types of diversity on campus. I think we should celebrate the diversity we have and acknowledge the work that still needs to be done,” said Hylton.
Yaw Amanfoh, a junior applied mathematics student and a member of the Black Student Association, also agreed the diversity on campus leaves something to be desired.
“I have to commend it for its sexual orientation diversity though,” Amanfoh said.
Amanfoh said he would like to see more programs in order to accommodate these people.
“There are already some great programs and scholarships for students of color to come to this campus. We have a great start, but it can certainly be improved,” Amanfoh said.
Erin Hill, a senior international studies student and president of the Black Student Association, said the event was for remembering and commemorating the Civil Rights Movement.
“Today marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech. It’s so we can reflect on what he’s done for everyone, and not just people of color. I probably wouldn’t be standing here without him,” Hill said.
A candlelight vigil followed Cathcart’s speech, with students lighting candles then walking around the quad.
“It doesn’t matter if the candlelight vigil is during the day. We wanted it to be right after the speech. The candle is a symbolic gesture, and it still brings feelings of hopefulness to the future,” Hill said.