November 4, 2010

Unity Month connects community

A graffiti wall at Wonderful Wednesdays is one of the self-expression activities of Unity Month.

November is Unity Month 2010, Emory's annual celebration of the uniqueness of every member of the University. All events are free, and everyone is encouraged to attend.

Check the Unity Month calendar for all the events, including movies, live performances, lectures, the Unity Ball and much more. 

"Unity Month is a people celebration,"says Donna Wong, director of the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services (OMPS). "We want everyone to be engaged, to step out of their comfort zone and participate. That means not only students, but faculty and staff as well."

Marc Cordon, associate director of OMPS, explains that Unity Month is "about more than multiculturalism, getting to know others. It's also about interculturalism, embracing your own culture, ethnicity, religion, race and gender, while finding safe places to interact with and learn about others."

Amy Li, chair of the student-run Unity Month Committee, defines the goals of the activities as "a way to increase our sense of belonging; to create safe places where students and faculty can discuss issues such as social identity, marginalization and diversity; and to create programs through which people can learn and have significant interactions."

"We want to bring together students, faculty and staff, and provide opportunities to learn about each other and ourselves, how we fit together as a community,"Li adds.

Notes Wong: "We have worked hard this year to bring in sexual identity, religious differences and other individual focuses, as well as including the Greek organizations."

Differences on a plate

Organizers are also putting an emphasis on socio-economic differences, for example through the Hunger Banquet on Nov. 15. Each attendee is assigned an "identity,"and gets a meal typical of that country as a way of increasing awareness of food issues globally, says Wong.

Unity Month has its roots in the 1990s, when Emory instituted Unity Week as a way of acknowledging the student body's increasing diversity, especially the growing African American population. That diversity has expanded to include Asians, Latinos and a much larger international contingent, as well as students representing a multitude of faith traditions.

"What does it mean to be part of this very diverse community? How do we stay true to our own core beliefs as we build a spirit of unity?" are some of the questions Ozzie Harris, senior vice provost for community and diversity, hopes Unity Month 2010 will address.

Cordon asks people to notice the bright Unity Month ribbons and banners adorning campus buildings and outdoor spaces, as reminders to weave a sense of unity into everyone's lives.

He hopes all community members will take Unity Month's message to heart: That everyone can impact others in a positive way by fostering communication, engagement and trust, in the classroom and across campus. 

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