By Linda Bailey, Student Reporter
When Trevor Cochlin, walked through the doors of Essence of Ebony Chapel for the first time, he did not know what to expect. Looking around, it immediately became apparent Cochlin was not like the rest of the attendants. Regardless, the white student stayed for the entirety of the mostly African-American Chapel.
“I walked in and I immediately noticed that I was the minority, but at the same time I didn’t feel like a sore thumb,” Cochlin, sophomore Christian ministry major from Lynchburg, Va., said.
After attending Chapel throughout the semester, Cochlin said he has gained a better understanding of African-American culture on ACU’s campus. His experience embodies just one illustration of how student organizations for minority groups on campus promote unity among their specific minority group while inviting other students to learn and share in their culture.
Essence of Ebony was formed in 1996 to plug black students into the ACU culture, said Anna Peters, vice president of Essence of Ebony and senior ministry to children and families major from Houston. She said one way they do this is through the annual black history month production.
In the same way, Brenda Daniels, president of International Students’ Association and senior biochemistry major from Bogota, Colombia, said ISA was formed in 1993 to help students from other countries find their place among ACU students.
“ISA was formed because there was a need for international students to come together,” Daniels said. “ACU is in the middle of Texas in a small town, and it is a big change for internationals to come here. We wanted to provide a way for international students to feel welcome.”
Two women who noticed a lack of unity among black women on campus formed Virtuous African-American Sisterhood (V.A.H.S.) in 2006. The organization was formed to change the way the women were getting along. Jasmine Bass, president of V.A.H.S. and junior psychology major from Palmdale, Calif., said the organization has helped her meet women she otherwise would not have met, and it made her transition to college smoother.
“Often times it can be a little difficult to adapt to your environment in college,” said Bass. “People don’t necessarily come from the same backgrounds as other people here. There are a lot of things that being a black woman entails, so a lot of times it can be a struggle being able to come together and discuss those issues.”
Stephanie Robles, president of Hispanos Unidos and senior psychology major from Mesquite, said Hispanos Unidos was formed 16-20 years ago to present diversity on campus.
However, the diversity and unity presented in these student groups can lead to unwanted stereotypes among group members. Robles said that many students have preconceived notions about Hispanos Unidos.
“People don’t come to our Chapels because they think we only speak Spanish, but it is for everyone,” Daniels said. “We want everyone to come so they can learn about the culture and learn the Spanish songs and because it is a growing population in the United States. People automatically assume that just because we are Hispanic that we are going to do everything in Spanish but we are trying to be culturally sensitive and do things in both English and Spanish.”
Dakwaun Hampton, vice president of Student African American Brotherhood (S.A.A.B.) and sophomore business management major from Waco, said that one main goal of S.A.A.B. was to fight stereotypes and create a positive representation of black males at ACU.
“I think there is a stereotypical representation for African male students on campus, and S.A.A.B. shows the other side of what can happen,” Hampton said. “Numerous minority males come here to play sports, and that is all they are known for. S.A.A.B. shows that you have other talents in academics or service or public speaking.”
Peters said non-minority students should not shy away from being part of Essence of Ebony because all types of people are welcome.
“The stereotypes that “people think ‘ebony’, I can’t be a part of it. That is totally not the case, it is open to all ACU students,” Peters said.
She also said when they set up a table to promote their group, especially during welcome week, they would not put up pictures of the group because too many students will just walk by the table. Peters said this gives Essence of Ebony a negative image when that is not what they want to represent.
“We are about being relational and finding out who you are,” Peters said.
To break free from these stereotypes, student minority groups on campus strive to include students of all races.
Robles said she thinks many students on campus are not even aware of the Hispanos group on campus and that it is not just for Hispanics, but for all students.
“I think Hispanos Unidos brings the role of making the ACU community aware of the Hispanic culture and builds bridges among students,” Robles said.
Daniels said ISA raises cultural awareness on and off campus through annual culture show.
“I think that ISA is very important in ACU community because a lot of Americans are very curious about other cultures,” said Daniels. “We provide an atmosphere for others to make friends from all over the world.”
Amanda Buchanan, senior psychology major from Lubbock, has been attending ISA Chapel for more than a year, though she is not from a foreign country. She said by attending the Chapel, she has made friends and learned about other cultures and races at ACU.
“I love the diversity and I love hearing other people’s stories about where they came from,” Buchanan said
Buchanan said she is attends many of the ISA events and even participated in its annual culture show.
“It is something that I would never be exposed to if I never made the effort to go,” Buchanan said.
All of these organizations serve the community in service projects and they hold various events throughout the semester.
Peters said to prevent exclusion and promote inclusion, at the beginning of Chapel they have a “love greet” where students go find someone they do not know and introduce themselves. She also said Essence of Ebony gives students new perspectives.
“I think it keeps ACU fresh. It keeps ACU thinking, it keeps them on their toes,” Peters said. “It allows ACU to remember things that make them unique.”
Cochlin said it was this new perspective that he was searching for when he first decided to go to Essence of Ebony Chapel.