Last Saturday was a day for the African, Latin, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center to reconnect with alumni responsible for its founding.
The idea to reconnect with these alumni was the idea of sophomore Meriden Weems, one of nine student ambassadors at ALANA who play a large role in running programming for the center. The idea was received well, and so students and staff, including ALANA Office Coordinator Makiko Filler invested a significant amount of time to organize this very successful event. Their first step was to create a list of people involved in the founding of ALANA, as well as those who have helped keep the center running. As a result, the weekend’s events were attended by alumni from the time of the ALANA’s founding in 1968 through those who graduated in 2006.
The first of a series of events on Saturday was a meet-and-greet in the ALANA building between students and 12 Colgate alumni. Director of ALANA Thomas Cruz-Soto, said this was an excellent opportunity to “engage alumni from the past.” Furthermore, some of the alumni who came to this event had not been to Colgate since they graduated, and so they were able to see how much the center has progressed since their graduation.
The next event was a dinner featuring addresses by several alumni. The speakers graduated between 1968 at 1972. These former students recounted their experiences in the founding of the center, particularly highlighting the successful sit-in of 1968, in which hundreds of students and faculty protested the Phi Delta Theta fraternity for racial discrimination.
Thomas Cruz-Soto explained that students attending these events realized the hard times faced by alumni around the time of ALANA’s founding. He mentioned that many students often express their grievances about social and racial issues on campus presently. However, after hearing these speakers, they realized how much greater the difficulties were that these formers students had to face.
“These alumni experienced hard times, but they loved their experience because they knew they were making history,” Cruz-Soto said.
The final event was a gospel choir fest sponsored by the Sojourners and led by renowned gospel singer, Kirk Franklin. Choirs from surrounding schools, including Cornell University and the State University of New York at Oneonta, as well as Colgate, gathered to perform at this event, which drew several hundred people. This event that culminated the alumni day made it particularly unique and enjoyable for attendees.
Because of the success of this event, as well as the desire to connect with even more Colgate graduates who were involved in the founding of ALANA, the center is in the process of organizing a Founder’s Day event for next year.