Letter to the Editor: Afro Am and ASA response to “An end to UDC”

Tulibona Namulemo

In a previous issue, a letter to the editor was written by Edward Bennett and Maleeka Aljawad calling for an end to the University Diversity Collaborative (UDC), citing the African American Society (Afro Am) and The African Students Association (ASA) as two of the organizations that have been oppressed while under UDC.

“In our 48 years as a student organization, [Afro Am] has never needed USG, a majority white male student organization to ‘gain a solid foundation on Case Western Reserve University’s campus,’ as Bennett and Aljawad stated in last week’s editorial. In fact, we challenge the assumption that USG resolutions are the most viable way for students to change and impact CWRU. USG states that they ‘serve as a collective student voice,’ but when African Americans are just five percent of the campus community, USG’s structure and policies systematically silence our voices.The independent and innovative strategies of [Afro Am] continue to spearhead campus-wide discussions, cultural shifts and systemic policy change. Audre Lorde argued that ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,’ and we fundamentally agree. [Afro Am] has consistently operated both internally and externally in ways that are anti-white supremacist, anti-elitist and anti-misogynist. Until USG can do the same, we demand that all USG representatives cease and desist referencing [Afro Am] in calls for UDC’s disbandment and/or increased participation in USG,” said President Makela Hayford on behalf of Afro Am.

“UDC has been nothing short of supportive, encouraging and respectful of our wishes. Contrary to the sentiments expressed by Aljawad and Bennett, which suggest that UDC somehow aims to ‘marginalize and undermine the advancement of minority groups on campus,’ ASA has been able to develop internally and to broaden our audience with the help of UDC and its constituents. Our mission of educating the CWRU community, as well as the Greater Cleveland area, about African culture is complemented perfectly by an umbrella organization whose main desire it is to celebrate all eight pillars of identity. Campus involvement with our organization has increased since the establishment of UDC, and we feel that it has given minority students more opportunities to step up and voice their opinions and concerns. ASA has never felt ‘left without direct representation to gain a solid foundation’ on CWRU’s campus except before the inception of UDC. Bennett and Aljawad’s statement shows what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls ‘the danger of a single story,’ as it fails to represent ASA as an organization and does more to silence our narrative than to accurately portray our feelings about UDC as our governing body. As a student organization, ASA reclaims ownership of its image and its brand and demands that all USG representatives cease and desist referencing [ASA] in calls for UDC’s disbandment and/or increased participation in USG,” said Presidents Tulibona Namulemo and Dyulani Thomas on behalf of ASA.

The African American Society and The African Students Association