By Elina Shapiro, Contributing Writer
Recently, on a brisk Friday afternoon, roughly seventy-five people, including UMF students, faculty and their kids, as well as community members, stood together in solidarity celebrating diversity and inclusion in UMF’s event Peace in the Park.
Following anti-Semitic vandalism in Abbott Park a few weeks ago, UMF student
Mana Abdi and professors Maybury and Linda Beck organized a day where students wore purple in advocacy of inclusion of everyone. “Peace in the Park was an outgrowth of ‘Wear Purple Wednesday,’” said Maybury. Peace in the Park was held in the area that the vandalism took place.
The gathering began at Abbott Park with attendants sipping their hot chocolate and greeting each other with warm and caring smiles. Karol Maybury, professor of Psychology, introduced UMF student speaker Mana Abdi, who was followed by President Foster’s speech about diversity, inclusion and connection.
“There is a reason we called this group the ‘Diversity and Inclusion Action Team;’for diversity without inclusion offers simply a few of every category and ‘ism’ atomized and disengaged without community or meaning,” said Foster. “Diversity with inclusion form the makings of a strong community, but without action – the third word in the name – we risk falling short of what could be.”
On November 5th, the Diversity and Inclusion Action Team, which is made up of students, faculty and staff,
had its first meeting. Maybury, who is also chair of the committee, was very encouraged by the team. “I’ve never been on a committee like this, where the energy is just so positive and just motivated to affirm our values as ‘UMFers’,” Maybury said.
During this meeting, someone suggested that UMF have a celebration of diversity, and thus, Pea
ce in the Park was born. Maybury said people worked fast to get pins made with #coexistumf, posters created; even the school mascot was involved. “Chompers is a very peace-loving beaver, so Chompers says he’s ‘all over this’ and wants to affirm his peace-loving heart,” said Maybury.
Heather Leet, a UMF sophomore double majoring in Secondary Education and English, and also a part of the “Diversity and Inclusion Action Team,” was pleased with the turnout and is excited about where the team is headed. “I work with kids all summer [during ‘Seeds of Peace’] to figure out how to coexist, how to work together, how to make a better world,” said Leet. “I am really excited to bring that experience in this group, and offer what I can and collaborate with others as best I can.”
Leet was impressed with how quickly the team was able to set up this event. “This is my second year at UMF, and so I really feel connected to the community now,” said Leet. “That’s another huge reason why I wanted to join this team, because it’s actually contributing to the community and I love being a part of that. Seeing something come from being on that team, so immediately, gives me a really wonderful feeling of optimism, hope, and motivation.”
Jonathan Cohen, professor of Philosophy at UMF, emphasized that acts of hate are hate no matter what group they’re aimed at. “Even when an incident or a bit of hate is directed at one group, it really affects everyone,” said Cohen. “It’s great when all the groups stick together and realize that we’re all in it together, that we don’t stand separately, we stand together, and the enemy isn’t hatred at one particular group, it’s hate in general, that’s the thing we’re battling.”
Peace in the Park was concluded by Peter Hardy, a UMF math professor, playing an original song called Trading Places on his guitar, which encouraged people to think about what would happen if people walked in different shoes.
Check out Facebook and Instagram for the hashtag #coexistumf and see selfies that people took with Chompers as well as photos from the event.