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Multicultural groups come together on campus: SHAC hosts first Student Social

Friday, Sept. 25 was the first ever Student Heritage Alliance Council (SHAC) student social.  Seven multicultural groups under SHAC all came together at the student social, which was open to the whole UMaine community.

With a plethora of different multicultural foods and tables set up for the different heritage groups, the social gave students a chance to learn about different cultures. Groups included the Asian Student Association, African Student Association, Black Student Union, Hillel, American Indian Student Organization, Caribbean Club and Muslim Student Association.

Jennifer Bailey, SHAC president and also a member of African Student Association, Black Student Union and secretary of Caribbean Club, is passionate about the representation of diverse cultures and heritages on campus. A political science and pre-law student, Bailey joined SHAC last year as a representative for African Student Association, and quickly worked her way up to president.

It was Bailey’s idea to host the SHAC student social.

“To my knowledge at least, there has never been an event where all of the groups have come together to socialize and see who else is a constituent of SHAC,” Bailey said.

SHAC’s motto is, “While we may come from different roots we all make up one tree.”

Bailey explained that while the presidents of each organization know each other, the members have never met one another. Presidents from each group must attend weekly SHAC meetings to report on their groups and tell each other about their upcoming events.

Bailey also added that without SHAC, the individual student groups would not have a voice.  Bailey attends weekly senate and cabinet meetings to represent all the groups.

SHAC is an open forum, and anything brought up in the meetings Bailey can be brought up to Student Government.

The social event included music, food, a raffle with multiple gift cards, dancing and a display table for each of the groups.

In addition to Bailey, SHAC has seen a fresh new executive board this year. Fufei Chen, a third-year biochemistry student from China, is the vice president of SHAC. He is also president of Asian Student Association.

“I think it is important to have a strong diversity on campus, because everyone has different backgrounds and cultures. People with different backgrounds and perspectives look at things differently,” Chen said.

Additionally, Fatimah Conteh just joined SHAC this year, and serves as the secretary. She is also secretary of the African Student Association. A second-year microbiology student from Bangor, Conteh said that her family is originally from The Gambia.

“The reason why I joined AFSA, was because as I was starting my freshman year, I wanted to meet people who had similar experiences, food, music, language, and values to that of mine,” Conteh said.

However, Conteh emphasizes that students from all backgrounds can join any of the heritage groups on campus.

“I hope that through the social and SHAC that students will see that there’s a lot of diversity on campus, learn more about what the Student Heritage Alliance Council is, and become more involved in SHAC clubs, because anyone can join,” Conteh said.

Melanie Sklare, a third-year nutrition student from Chicago, is president of Hillel. Sklare agreed with Chen in the importance of heritage groups on campus.

“[Heritage groups help] you identify with your background and educates the rest of the community, especially in a state that is mostly white,” Sklare said.

“I hope that they see that there are other organizations out there and that if it is something they are interested in joining, that there is more to the world than just America,” Sklare said.

Charlotte Roe is a co-founder of the American Indian Student Organization (AISO) and is the president. Roe is a fourth-year journalism student from Bellport, N.Y. This is her third year managing the group.

“When founding AISO, I wanted to create a space that the indigenous people of UMaine and even surrounding areas to get to know each other, talk about indigenous current events and cultural issues, and to just have fun and enjoy being native,” Roe said.

In the past, the group has given presentations on campus about native heritage. Last year, they celebrated Native American Heritage Month (which is November), and hosted movie nights.  This November, they hope to host a Native American Ted Talk Conference, and also plan to host movie nights and a potluck dinner.

“Having heritage and multicultural groups on campus allow for an educational environment that welcomes and enjoys the same values that many grew up with or simply want to learn more about,” Roe said.

Students are encouraged to join any of the multicultural groups if they are interested. SHAC is also searching for two more executive members: a treasurer and a public relations officer.

“I just really want people to be more aware that SHAC is a resource for them and that it is easy to get involved,” Bailey said. “It is a good way to put their input or voice on any issues they are having.”

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