As Cruz Plaza filled with the sounds old and new school music, volleyball, football games and strolling as well as the smell of barbeque, the Back to School Block Party had begun. Representatives from some of Mercer’s many multicultural organizations were ready to welcome new and old students.
The event was organized by the African Student Association, the Caribbean Student Association, the Organization of Black Students, The National Council of Negro Women, the National Society of Black Engineers, The Minority Association of Pre-Med Students, P.O.I.N.T Blank Poetry Club and the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
First-year student Tayla Scott thought it was a great way to welcome students onto campus.
“I’m feeling a little more reassured in how diverse the student body is here,” she said. “Although it was only the first event of the year, it gives me hope for future events and most of all unity across the campus.”
At the end of the last school year, Rangreli — Mercer’s new South Asian dance team — QuadWorks and the Mercer University Korean Student Association hosted a cultural exposition.
Rangreli founders and co-captains Shannon Alexander and Alisha Aurora wanted to host a program that was dedicated to showcasing the diverse talent on Mercer’s campus.
“What better way than a cultural exposition,” Alexander said.
The growing number of cultural organizations at Mercer is driving plans to create a council that would work to make more events like the cultural exposition and the Back to School Block Party possible. The Student Government Association’s campus engagement committee brought up an initiative to form a multicultural council.
“The council is designed to connect the cultural organizations together and it’ll help to make them stronger,” said Gabriel Gonzalez, president and founder of the International Bears Association.
Just a few days before the cultural expo, the African Student Association hosted their annual fashion show and culture night, using entertainment to share their culture with the student body.
“It’s been good to get together with people who understand my culture,” said Ijeoma Mbaezue, who’s on the special events team of the African Student Association and co-president for this school year. “I feel like it’s an important organization because it does expose the rest of the campus to the culture that we come from.”
Mbaezue said it’s been good to watch people of different backgrounds come to Mercer and do big things.
Rangreli was founded in the fall semester of 2015. The club started as a branch under Mercer Masala, a campus organization devoted to bringing the Southeast Asian population and the rest of the Mercer community together. But this year, Rangreli is now its own organization under the student government.
“Rang means color, and reli means fun and frolic,” Aurora said. “It’s just a word that has a lot of connotations of being light and happy.”
During their first active year, Rangreli performed at QuadWork’s Macon an Impact, the Muslim Student Association and Mercer Masala’s Eid banquet to celebrate the Muslim holiday, The African Student Association’s Art Explosion and Mercer Asia’s Lunar New Year.
After performing at events hosted by some of the other cultural organizations on campus, Rangreli wanted to start something of their own. They wanted to bring people of different cultures together and allow them to artistically express themselves.
“Throughout the years that I’ve been at Mercer, I noticed that there is so much diversity and so much talent. We have singers … dancers and people that do spoken word,” Alexander said.
Rangreli reached out to the cultural organizations on campus. Some of the performers included the African Student Association, the Latin American Student Association, representatives from Mercer Masala and the Organization of Black Students.
“To foster the spirit of diversity on campus, that’s something that’s really important to us,” Alexander said.
Alexander and Aurora are hoping that the cultural expo will be an annual campus event.
The African Student Association also has plans for this school year after discussing them at their interest meeting full of new students. Their theme is going to be The Riches of Africa, Mbaezue said.
“We want to highlight the good part of Africa…the rich culture and the rich background,” she said.
The organization wants to hold more conversations and host more events with the Caribbean Student Association, The Organization of Black Students and other people from different cultural backgrounds.
“When you have conversations with people, that’s when you can educate them,” Mbaezue said.
The multicultural committee is working on a constitution, and for the 2016-2017 school year, it will be a council under the Office of Minority Affairs and the Office of International Programs.
Gonzalez said he will be contacting multicultural organizations very soon to get things started.
“It’s an exciting time for current and new Mercer students who have international heritage, are international students or just want to learn about the cultures of others.”