As some of you may know, I was fortunate enough to be offered a position on Clemson's Orientation Ambassador team for this coming summer. We go through training for a lot of different aspects of student and college life, such as how to approach sensitive issues, how to respectfully interact with people from different backgrounds (sexual orientation, culture, race, ethnicity - you name it), and how to make ourselves aware of the struggles each of us are facing on campus, even if they don't affect each individual person.

Part of the way we make this happen is by going to one multicultural event per month and writing a short paper about it. It's a way to get us out of our comfort zones, to take our blinders off and realize that everyone's experiences, both on campus and in life, are so different.

As a predominantly white institute (PWI), Clemson still has a lot of work to do when it comes to diversity, especially including, appreciating, and honoring different races and cultures. This is a place to start.

Clemson has the Gantt Multicultural Center that puts on multicultural events every month throughout the year, regardless of whether or not its a history month or an awareness week. Harvey and Lucinda Gantt were Clemson's first two African American students, both enrolled in 1963. Through the Gantt Center and a couple of co-sponsors, Clemson had over ten different celebrations, presentations, and events to honor and appreciate black history.

Gantt Multicultural Center

Gantt Multicultural Center

Gantt Multicultural Center

While I wasn't able to attend all of the events last month, I was still able to sit with my black classmates and try my hardest to clearly and earnestly listen to them and understand the reality of what they go through every day. I could never understand exactly how they feel or put myself in their shoes, but that won't stop me from trying to understand my role in our campus's dynamic and how I can consciously use it to support my classmates and make it known that I want things to change for them and that I'm willing to go leaps and bounds outside of my comfort zone in order to do so.

The main event I was able to go to last month was David Banner's keynote speech. It was really eye-opening to see and hear how black people and white people have such different ideas of racism and the different instances where sometimes we need to meet in the middle, sometimes white people need to do the work, and sometimes white people need to understand that black people know what they want more than we know what they want. There are so many fine lines and grey areas surrounding racism in the United States, on college campuses, at Clemson. Banner's speech really opened my eyes to what I should and shouldn't do while trying to support Clemson's black community and the black community all over the world.

I hope that in the coming months and years I can learn more about different cultures, lifestyles, and experiences, and be more and more able to live in a way that reminds me and others to be respectful and supportive of everyone no matter what.