Updated: Oct 27
The return of in-person meetings has significantly impacted Salisbury University cultural student organizations this semester as the effects of COVID-19 linger into the fall.
There are several active cultural organizations at SU, including the African Student Association, Caribbean Student Association, Kinks & Curls for Boys & Girls, Middle Eastern Cultural Society, various multicultural sororities and fraternities and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Alliance. These organizations rely on sharing traditions, creating familial connections and providing a safe space for members.
During the 2020-21 academic year, COVID-19 proved to be a major obstacle for maintaining cultural groups. Many student leaders graduated and incoming students grappled with new online class routines.
“A lot of people expressed that these clubs were dying and losing participation,” said Sandra Jean-Baptiste, president of the Caribbean Student Association. “Joining [the organization] as an executive board member my freshman year allowed for me to reach out to other freshmen who were seeking friends or somewhere that they could feel like they belong.”
Back in-person, the CSA’s bi-weekly meetings cover an array of topics with a primary goal of bringing Caribbean culture and love to American spaces, and all students are encouraged to join regardless of ethnicity, Jean-Baptiste said.
“We do have our own culture, and we are our own set of people,” Jean-Baptiste said. “It is important that we embrace that side of ourselves and bring it to where other people cannot only learn about it but also relate from their [own] cultures.”
The African Student Association also has big plans for the upcoming year, including its annual “Taste of Africa’’ event. Serving as president for the third consecutive year, senior Nanayaa Boaten is committed to the ASA’s goal of educating students about the diverse cultures of Africa.
Boaten said meetings are typically described as “familial,” and while there is a lot of laughing and joking, there are also conversations about social issues and politics.
“The African Student Association to me is family,” Boaten said. “It’s home.” Above all, ASA strives to maintain a sense of community for students on campus by having a “safe zone” that is comfortable and familiar, which “boosts people’s confidence and helps with mental health,” Boaten said.
The ASA is open for all students to bond over African culture, regardless of their ethnicity or background.
“Definitely join and expand your horizons,” Boaten said. “There’s nothing more enlightening than stepping into somebody else’s culture, seeing the connections you can make and finding a new love.”
While having these organizations and cultural appreciation is certainly important on campus, Boaten also believes it is vital to elevate minority voices.
“We need to focus on trying to target the problems that these minority groups are facing,” Boaten said.
Other organizations, such as Students Helping Honduras, combine cultural appreciation with service.
SHH members fundraise various relief efforts in Honduras. Many students went on service trips to the country prior to the pandemic.
Sophomore Andrea Gerber, who serves as vice president of SHH, has a Central American heritage and cultural connection to the organization but also appreciates the values and service-oriented nature of SHH.
“It gave me the chance of having somewhat of a normal college experience,” Gerber said.
Many of the SHH’s efforts are devoted to raising funds, but the organization is also part of a larger branch that holds events related to Honduran culture.
Gerber said being a member of SHH serves as a learning experience, where students “really get to know the people in the community where they’re working.”
SHH members can form connections with executive members who share similar interests during the organization’s biweekly meetings, as well as widen a student’s perspective to different customs outside of America.
“When [members] are able to go down [to Honduras, they] can actually experience that firsthand,” Gerber said.
Students can look forward to upcoming activities from several cultural organizations, including ”Got 2 Glow,” a wellness collaboration between CSA and Kinks & Curls for Boys & Girls, fall fundraising efforts for SHH and the annual “Taste of Africa” event held by the ASA.
By SANDRA ZELAYA
Featured image courtesy of Salisbury University Public Relations Office.