Students focus attention on often overlooked issue of diversity
“During ‘New Faces of America,’ the diversity presentation that was a part of first-year student orientation, a student recommended that the show's writers and producers consider adding the identity of a person living with AIDS so that the show would address this element of multiculturalism that is often overlooked,” says Mahlia Joyce ’03, M.S. ’10, director of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.
The suggestion stayed with Joyce, who thought about how much focus is on what she calls the big three – race, class and sexual orientation.
“There are so many facets to diversity and culture though – health and wellness being just one of the many layers,” she says, adding that she collaborated with a group of students interested in commemorating World AIDS Day. “I mentioned that I had seen the Memorial Quilt on the National Mall in 1996 when it was assembled in its entirety and it made such an impact on me. I wondered what message seeing just a block of it would send to college students.”
The resulting quilt display and activities were planned in collaboration with four student groups – Sophisticated Ladies and Gentlemen, Women’s Issues Group, McDaniel Allies and Advocacy Team. Conceived in 1985 and first displayed with fewer than 2,000 panels in 1987, the AIDS Memorial Quilt now has more than 45,000 individual 3-by-6-foot memorial panels. It covered the entire National Mall in Washington, D.C., when it was last displayed in October of 1996.
“Perhaps what was most impactful for me was that each of the eight panels in the block we received represents not just the individuals whose names appear there, but also the multiple family members, friends, co-workers, and other loved ones whose lives were also affected by the tragedy of AIDS,” Joyce says. “Overall, the event was intimate, but meaningful for many who attended.”