By Kelsi Peace, Features Editor
James Graham grew up color blind. Or at least that’s how Graham, sophomore Bible major from Abilene, describes his multi-cultural upbringing, (his father is Caucasian and his mother is Mexican American) and his diverse group of friends.
Graham accompanied that group of friends to an Essence of Ebony chapel his freshman year, and instantly got involved leading a prayer group in the organization and acting as an assistant director in last year’s Black History Month Production.
Last week Graham was elected president of the organization.
“I really feel like I can really meet the needs of Essence and make it more well-known,” Graham said.
He said he plans to involve the organization in more community service, to work with students in the public school systems and partner with the Volunteer Service-Learning Center to get involved on campus.
“That way our voice will become more broad in what we do,” Graham said.
Graham said the fact that he is not African American never crossed his mind when he considered running for office in a predominately African American group.
“If I can do it, and it will edify the people, I will run,” Graham said. “Skin color was not an issue for me. It was, ‘Do I have the skills to get the job done?'”
This year’s president, Erica Ray, senior social work major from Arlington, said she is confident Graham will maintain the organization’s focus, which is to represent and raise awareness of African American culture.
Vice president Camari Carter, junior political science major from Los Angeles, said she expects any president of the organization to be mature, accountable and open-minded. With Graham as the new face of Essence, Carter said, new awareness of Essence may be raised.
“I know that it will be difficult for people to accept his presence based on skin color,” Carter said. “But I think it’s God’s way of working to break those barriers…ACU has been dealing with a lot of racist issues, and I think this is God’s way of saying, ‘Hey, this is not how I wanted it to be. I did not want it to be segregated.'”
LaShae Grottis, director of Student Services and director of Student Multicultural Enrichment, praised this year’s office for expanding interest in the organization, and said she hopes Graham will work to partner with the campus community, including organizations like social clubs and Wildcat Kids. Like the others, she said the president’s race is not an issue.
“There may be some people outside of the organization who will look and question and wonder,” Grottis said. “But from our perspective, it’s not a big deal.”
Graham said his position is important because it demonstrates diversity that happened naturally with involvement in Essence instead of a forced effort.
“Christian[s] don’t think about race,” Graham said. “[They] think about spirit. When everyone has that focus, that wall that we call racism will fall.”