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Carroll Community College holds Unity Day for diversity

Over the past five years, Carroll Community College has made a point to make diversity of culture, ethnicity and gender a central component of an education at the college, according to spokeswoman Sylvia Blair.

"Very simply, as an educational institution, we should be open-minded and informed," Blair said. "We're an open admissions community college and therefore should reflect an understanding of all backgrounds and walks of life."

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A key component in that focus on diversity is the annual Unity Day Celebration, an event that typically features speakers or performers that present students, faculty and the community with a more diverse view of the world, according to Kristie Crumley, director of student life at the college.

"Our Unity Day Celebration has taken a different look every year," Crumley said. "A few years ago, we had some Native American dancers here. Before that, we had students who did different advocacy projects talk about advocating for yourself. It's a day to celebrate ourselves and things we have in common with others."

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Brittany Hill, of Westminster, is a third year student at Carroll Community College that said she has always enjoyed the Unity Day Celebration.

"Last year I believe there was dancing and the year before that, I really liked it because it was like speed dating," Hill said. "We all sat down at different tables and talked about our cultures, where we come from, and got to try different foods like couscous. I found out I like [couscous] and I would have never known that."

This year, the Unity Day Celebration will be held on Oct. 8, and will feature a "We're Muslim, Don't Panic" movement workshop lead by hip-hop dance choreographer Amirah Sackett, who teaches at the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists in St. Paul, Minn.

"It will be a combination of [Sackett] speaking about herself and her art and then also performing," Crumley said. "That presentation is open to the community ... Later on in the day, she is also doing a workshop just for students that is about hip-hop, music and movement."

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Sackett's presentation will be held from noon until 1 p.m. in the Great Hall at Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster.

Scott Gore is the chairman of the visual arts department at the college as well as a faculty member of the Creativity Academic Community, a group of faculty and students that help facilitate informal student learning experiences in the visual, written and movement based creative arts, which is sponsoring the Unity Day Celebration.

Gore said that the celebration is not just about exposing students and faculty to particular minorities, but about exposing them to more of the world.

"We can be very isolated here in Carroll County and even Towson can seem like the other side of the world," Gore said. "It has been a concern to us for a while that students are leaving here not being as exposed to diversity as we would like."

According to Crumley, a member of the student life staff had seen Sackett perform and after viewing video of some of her performances, the student life office worked hard to bring her to Carroll Community College for the Unity Day Celebration.

"I think she is a really good choice because she is a very charismatic communicator," Crumley said. "She talks about being an American, being a woman, being a Muslim and being a Muslim woman. Her art is all around hip-hop music and culture, so putting all those pieces together is just another way to learn about Islam, to learn about gender and to learn about music at the same time."

Keith Chapman, of Manchester, is in his first semester at the college and said that while he had not heard of Sackett previously, he really liked the idea of her workshop at the Unity Day Celebration.

"I think it's really cool because a lot of people in this day and age are uneducated about Muslims and [Muslims] often get the short of end of the stick because people are uninformed," Chapman said. "I think more education and exposure to Islam would be awesome. I could dig on that."

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