Greensboro, NC — The ongoing discrimination within the nation has caused students to form dialogue on whether art is useful as a means diversification and inclusivity. At its worst, art can create an opposition between classes of people. At its best, it can help facilitate the discussion and actions surrounding inclusivity, especially on a college campus.
Within the University atmosphere, there is a debate regarding the approach to promoting diversity and inclusivity. As students throughout time have found themselves drawn toward people of their own ethnic group, they are engaging in discussions about whether art is useful in solving the problematic issue.
Gwendolyn Love, a previous UNCG student and spoken word poet that currently majors in journalism at Chapel Hill, argues that art has made her feel more connected with other artists that share the same interests as her. She states, “With my writing, I definitely feel connected to my community because that is something that I perform and share with people, which is like me tying my way into humanity.” She continued by saying, “Seeing and hearing other artists perform definitely makes me feel attached or closer in a way just because we have this common ground of being an artist.”
College students seem to enjoy various forms of art; however, the favored art form that is inevitably cross-pollinated across campuses is music.
Desaney Barbour, a UNCG student who was raised in a Liberian family, shares that she has made several friends and connections with people with which she does not talk to on a daily basis, because of cultural events both on and off campus.
She goes on by stating, “I don’t really go up and talk to people about it, but I think listening to African music has caused me to relate to people within my culture and engage in conversation with outsiders that are interested in it,” said Barbour.
Many students face cross-pollination of various art forms on campus by engaging in community events that oftentimes play music or display visual art for students to enjoy and partake in.
For several years, UNCG has provided its students with safe zone events that are used to promote the uniqueness of its diverse campus, however, a recent newspaper article argued that while there is diversity, there is still a lack of inclusivity.
Megan Pociask, a UNCG student and writer for the Carolinian, wrote an article titled, “Why do all the ___ students sit together in the ‘Caf?’” She attended a community dialogue event that focused on the diverse yet divided campus. In the article, she explored how diversity still does not mean inclusivity, even at a school which focuses on bringing a variety of different backgrounds and cultures together.
Taraniquewa Jackson, a student at Lewis University studying biology, visited UNCG and shared her experience growing up in Chicago and attending university there. She shared that she has had a lot of connections with people from similar backgrounds, saying, “I enjoy drill music and people with a similar background as me really relate and it brings us together.”
Art as a means of spreading diversity is not a new concept as many people have tried to implement this practice within schools by offering spaces to perform and share art to promote this belief.
Curtis King, founder and president of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters, visited UNCG to depict in chronological order his founding of the school and how it is used to promote diversity. According to King, he believes, “millennials and the younger generations understand that we’re all trying to get to the same place, and they are engaging with people of all backgrounds through their art.”
King developed the academy to provide a space for multi-disciplined arts with a mission to create and enhance awareness and understanding of artistic, cultural and aesthetic differences using the framework of African American and Caribbean arts and newsletters.
Though there is no clear understanding as to whether art always promotes diversity, it can be agreed that it promotes inclusivity of people that share similar or different backgrounds by acting as a tool of engagement.