Creativity in the Community

Since the incident involving racist graffiti in Alumni Hall last semester, Colgate students have been taking considerable measures to promote diversity on campus and to demonstrate that the racist beliefs of the vandal misrepresented the views of the Colgate student body. Recently, these efforts reached out to the Hamilton community through the “Overcoming Intolerance Creativity Contest.”

Out of over 40 submissions, several members of the Student Government Association (SGA) External Affairs Committee chose four winners. Three were at the high school level and one was at the middle school level.

On Monday, April 6 at the African, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center, winners of this contest gathered to display their projects in a presentation led by members of SGA.

Sophomore Max Weiss of SGA explained that students decided to hold this contest in response to the racist graffiti.

“We took our efforts to the high school to show a better face for Colgate students, and to promote diversity and discussion,” Weiss said.

The four winners moved the audience with their presentations of their poems and stories about their personal experiences with racism and intolerance.

Perhaps the most moving of these presentations was that of Kati Baker, the first place winner and recipient of $1,000. When Baker was four years old, her father was shot and killed by an African-American teenager. Kati’s mother helped her present a scrapbook that Kati compiled, which included a poem written for her father’s funeral. With the scrapbook, she demonstrated how her family has been able to look past racism and intolerance despite the incident of her father’s death. She included pictures of her and her half African-American boyfriend, who has been well received by her family. She also included pictures of the wedding between her aunt and an African-American man, and the child they had together. Although the Baker family has been deeply wounded by Kati’s father’s death, they have moved past feelings of intolerance. This idea that one can set aside such hateful feelings perfectly captures the message of diversity that Colgate seeks to promote.

The other winners, who received iPod prizes, also presented their works. At the high school level, Gennady Julien, a senior, took second prize and Sarah Markowski, a junior, took third prize. The middle school winner was Sabrina Rebuck, an eighth grader.

Senior Brian Haghighi of SGA closed with some remarks on diversity and tolerance at Colgate, focusing particularly on the role of leadership in achieving this goal.

“Leadership is the tendency to overcome conforming,” Haghighi said, adding that if, as a community, we all bring in our different perspectives and embrace our differences, we can allow for discussion. “Discussion produces leadership,” Haghighi said.

According to Haghighi, if we genuinely engage with one another, we can overcome prejudice.

“Prejudice exists when real relationships do not,” Haghighi concluded.