Unity Month brings campus celebration, recognition of diversity


Parthenon File Photo

Students and faculty walk together in October 2018 for the seventh annual Unity Walk.

The second annual Unity Month kicks off Friday with Lessons in Drag. Unity Month was created in order to invoke conversation, celebrate diversity and create an inclusive atmosphere, said Zelideth Rivas, head organizer of Unity Month and professor at Marshall.

“Unity month seeks to promote the diversity of people, cultures, different languages at Marshall University and also to unite Marshall University under one banner,” Rivas said.

With graduation coming up, this month is a nice way of reminding people what the college can be and what they will be taking with them once they walk across the stage and begin their lives and careers beyond Marshall, Rivas said.

“Students need to know that they too are welcome here and that college is certainly a time for exploring, learning and understanding others,” said Will Holland, co-organizer of the events and director of community outreach and volunteer services at Marshall.

Everyone at Marshall and those within the Huntington community are welcome and encouraged to learn about others while becoming “as accepting as you can be,” Holland said.

“It is a pretty divisive time throughout this campus and also this nation so anytime we can put a positive spin on our differences as oppose to dwelling on them is a very valuable skill to hone in on,” Holland said.

The message behind Unity Month is very important and that is why it is more than just a day or only one event, Holland said.

“It is saying that this is one of our top priorities,” Holland said. “And if the community can just understand that, ‘Hey Marshall University gets it. They celebrate diversity and are very welcoming.’ If they can glean that from our message, then that would be mission accomplished.”

The first event will be Lessons in Drag, featuring two drag queens educating attendees on what drag consists of, along with an academic aspect going into performance, race and other parts of it. This will be a time to teach others in an entertaining way while celebrating the LGBTQ faculty, staff and students.

A Paint and Sip co-hosted by the Campus Activities Board will feature the Diversity Bison. An informative speech will also be given on diversity along with why the Diversity Bison was created.

A group of faith leaders will come together, as they did last year, for the Interfaith Dialogue, bringing together different faith leaders from the Huntington area along with faith-based organizations on campus to have a discussion with anyone who would like to attend and share their own beliefs and what it means to them. Pre-registration is encouraged for a head count and can be done by contacting [email protected].

Key speaker Farrah Jaquez, a professor at the University of Cincinnati and Marshall graduate, will be talking about community engaged scholarship on health equality. This is achieved by going out into the community and finding the academic way of speaking that can empower a community to do better. 

The lineup of events for Unity Month will end with the Diversity Awards, which will occur at President Jerry Gilbert’s house. The ceremony will highlight the students, staff and faculty nominated, and nominations can be completed by going to http://www.marshall.edu/diversity/unity-month and will be open until April 8.  People who are nominated are those who encourage diversity and go above and beyond to do so at Marshall university, Rivas said.

“It’s a celebration of being inclusive and socially conscious,” Rivas said.

Tiara Brown can be contacted at [email protected].