by Sabrina Guilbeault ’18
“My history dates back to when the gates of hell swung open with a welcome mat greeting reading, ‘Welcome to a land of white supremacy, where it will be on your slaving backs that this country actually becomes worth remembering,’” spoke Phionna Claude ’18, executive president of Student Congress, as she read a poem she wrote herself in front of administrators, alumni, faculty, and staff at the opening ceremony and blessing for the newly renovated Moore Hall.
“I still have people questioning my humanity. I’m still struggling communicating that my black is not an atrocity, my skin shouldn’t be a warning label, my black has forced me to become a rebel, my black is a shade too rich, too bold, too unapologetically unafraid,” she said.
The new Moore Hall is meant to encourage engagement with the arts, learning, and be “a place for authentic dialogue focused on themes of social justice and community. ” This was revealed and discussed this past weekend through the “Reflecting Forward” event, which was designed to be a celebration of Multiculturalism and Diversity at Providence College.
A steering committee including Board of Trustees members, alumni, Institutional Advancement, and the Office of Alumni Relations were responsible for the planning of the weekend.
“Intuitional Advancement did I fantastic job spearheading all of this,” said Taiwo Adefiyiju ’14
Assistant Director and Career Coach, Career Education Center, who was on the Steering Committee. She also gave kudos to co-chairs and trustees Duane Bouligny ’94 and Andre Owens ’85, for the success of the event.
She explained that Deirdre Driscoll-Lemoine ’98, ’19P from the Office of College Events and Robert Ferreira ’83 from the Office of Alumni Relations spearheaded the weekend, while Adefiyiju worked closely with Quincy Bevely, assistant dean of students, to help with student input and involvement.
After the initial blessing and welcome, a panel presentation transpired in which campus figures such as Kristine Goodwin, vice president of student affairs, and Reverend R. Gabriel Pivarnik, O.P., vice president of mission and ministry discussed topics involving diversity and institutional change at the College.
Following the panel discussion, attendees had the opportunity to take part in multiple breakout sessions that all centered on the theme of “reflecting forward.”
Patricia Goff ’08 of Career Services spoke on “PC1G,” which is a new initiative designed to help first-generation students and their families find resources and programs at PC. The session asked for feedback from the alumni audience on how they would like to see the program move forward to best fit the needs of first generation students at PC.
Another breakout session was lead by Tiffany Gaffney ’03 of the Office of the Dean of Students, Cate Latz ’13 from the Office of Institutional Advancement, and Dr. Christopher Arroyo from the philosophy department, who have all been actively involved in conversationsabout LGBTQ+ identities at PC. The discussion centered on their experiences building relationships and building bridges.
“I thought it went very well,” said Haley Rayment ’18, who attended this breakout session. She explained there were many people with different backgrounds in attendance at this talk, including trustees, students, faculty, staff, and Dominican Friars. “It opened my eyes to the support members of this community receive from Providence College,” she said.
Keynote speaker James P. Huguley, Ed.D. ’99, an assistant professor at the Center on Race and Social Problems and School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, spoke during lunch. He addressed issues of diversity and inclusion in higher education. In his biography, it was explained that Huguley’s work focuses on “school-based interventions that promote positive developmental outcomes for students of color.”
“I believe it was very successful,” said Adefiyiju. “Overall people enjoyed the building and being able to see how much work was put it, and connecting with their own respective classes to see how far we have come.” She said it was especially fascinating to see current members of Board of Multicultural Student Affairs connect with alumni members of BMSA and share their stories from today and yesterday.
The event was well attended by alumni, administration, faculty, and staff, but one criticism of the event was that the weekend could have had more current students in attendance. In response to this fear, students from NAACP and the Office of Institutional Diversity are putting on their first ever homecoming at Moore Hall this coming Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event, H.O.M.E.coming, will include performances from Motherland, PC Step, Acappella, and Adam Hanna ’18, along with poetry readings from the Believers of Words club.
“For students to spearhead this, that is important and that is powerful, and shows how this space really can bring the community together,” said Adefiyiju. “A lot has changed, a lot needs to be done, and we are recognizing what we have done and what stills need to be done.”
The end of Claude’s poem from the welcome blessing discussed the importance of education, and how it is education that has helped her to see the truth of her ancestry. Reflecting Forward also emphasized this education, and the hopes that the new campus center will focus on the College’s “diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.” “So, please acknowledge the heartbeat behind my skin that labels me as diversity and instead recognize my humanity,” Claude said. “I am fighting to rewrite the history of my ancestors who never had the chance to hold the key.”