Multicultural Student Association Thrives in its Third Year / Rachel Faulk
In its third year on campus, the Multicultural Student Association (MSA) has become well-established at MC. As they host more events this year, MSA’s officers hope to see the organization’s influence grow and more students take part.
MSA seeks to recognize and promote the cultural diversity that exists among the students of MC. “We’re an organization that promotes multiculturalism, inclusion, diversity, and we recognize different cultures,” said MSA president and founder Camryn Johnson.
Johnson, a senior Mathematics major from Byram, Mississippi, had the idea to start MSA in her sophomore year. “I’m not in a tribe or anything, and I just wanted to have my own piece of home and piece of community on campus,” she said. She pitched the idea for MSA to some upperclassmen friends and with their support founded the organization in early fall 2019.
During their first year on campus, MSA participated in the Homecoming tailgate, held a Halloween fundraiser, and put on a number of events as a “culture explosion” during February. Due to COVID-19 restrictions last year, however, MSA did not hold events, although they still had Zoom meetings and community service projects such as a book drive for the children’s hospital.
This year, MSA returns at full strength. During the month of October, they held a T-shirt fundraiser, a community service drive to benefit Shower Power in Jackson, a Halloween bash, and participated in the Homecoming tailgate. In November, they plan to emphasize mental health, with an event bringing in a speaker from Counseling Services, as well as recognizing Native American Heritage Month. Information about their upcoming events can be found on their Instagram @mcmsa_.
Johnson encourages anyone interested to come to MSA meetings or events. “We have open meetings, so anyone can come to our meetings, anyone can participate in our community service projects, anyone can come to the tailgate, so it’s pretty open. We do have active members, but it’s open to everybody.”
Students sometimes confuse MSA with the Campus Programming Board’s Cross-Cultural Committee. Johnson, who is on the Cross-Cultural Committee, explained that the committee supports other organizations on campus including MSA. For example, when Johnson had an idea for a Hispanic Heritage Month event but knew MSA did not have as many resources to put on this event, she pitched it to the committee and the two organizations worked together to host the event.
Queen Washington, chair of the Cross-Cultural Committee and an MSA officer, clarified, “The whole purpose of the committee is to help other organizations on campus that are culturally inclusive. So if MSA were to have an event and they need help with certain things, the Cross-Cultural Committee would come and help them either acquire more resources or give them the help that they need.” Emphasizing that the two are not the same, however, she added, “MSA will go more into the community, and I would say [the Cross-Cultural Committee] is more putting events on campus that bring culture to the school.”
Washington, a senior and the SGA representative for MSA this year, has participated in MSA since its inaugural year. “When Cam first started MSA our sophomore year, I originally got interested in it because I knew of Cam and I liked what they had going on. The main concept of MSA was to create an inclusive environment and a safe space for minority students or students of color, so that’s what really attracted me to it.”
As a member of the track team, Washington said her only friend group at the time was within her sport, so she enjoyed getting to meet new friends through MSA, as well as being able to have honest conversations there. This year, she is excited for the events MSA will host and believes that they will be impactful despite the organization’s small size. “Even though numbers are small, the personalities that we do have, you can tell people are eager to be involved.”
MSA design chair Kendriana Addison brings a unique perspective as a graduate student at MC. She first joined MSA last year. “I kept seeing the flyer on the door of the Med Sci building, and it said that they had meetings on Zoom every Tuesday. So on a random Tuesday I just hopped on and I really liked what they were talking about, so I kept logging on.”
As a grad student, Addison expressed that MSA gave her a way to meet friends and get involved on campus. “I really like MSA because it’s a safe space to pretty much talk about anything. We talk about diversity, inclusivity, politics, mental illness, we talk about anything. And whatever goes on in MSA stays in MSA.”
MSA secretary Esther Urbina has been an officer since MSA’s inaugural year. Having transferred from Hinds Community College, Urbina said she felt “out of place” at MC at first since she did not join a tribe and was not involved in any other organizations besides the Board (then CAB). When a friend told her about Johnson’s idea to start MSA, Urbina went to a meeting and decided to join as an officer.
“I just thought that MSA was a great place for me since I didn’t know many people at Mississippi College, I didn’t know much about organizations other than CAB. I guess I was looking for a place where I could feel in place; I knew I was a person of color but I didn’t want that to exclude me from other things. The slogan that we have at MSA is ‘where diversity meets inclusion,’ and I wanted that place where there was diversity but we were inclusive as well.” She hopes MSA will continue to expand to represent even more cultural backgrounds.
Urbina, who will graduate in December, said MSA has been impactful in her time at MC in giving her a place to get involved and meet so many different people. “I’m going to miss MSA when I graduate, but hopefully in the future there are more people who are as passionate as Cam and other people in the organization that will keep the organization alive and going throughout the years.”