The African-American struggle for both inclusiveness and representation at the University of Illinois has a long-running background, dating back prior to the start of Project 500—a public demand to admit more African-American and Latino students into the university.
An inspirational video Project 500 Then and Now, created by other UIUC students, explicitly shows in what ways this is true.
But the dance of balancing African-American inclusiveness as well as the autonomy of having strength in numbers is a delicate one that requires a combination of administrative savvy and a grassroots-styled persuasion of people of color. As one of the Black bodies in a predominantly White institution, one cannot help but wonder what exactly the University of Illinois means when it heralds, “Inclusion” as if students are impersonalized assorted flavors of some politically correct cocktail.
On closer inspection, “Inclusion” seems to be geared towards international students and bringing in international dollars into the university, thus further excluding the domestic students of color in their public relations effort to appear more diverse.
After all, if students of color truly felt safe and represented then there would be no need to mobilize around long-standing issues such as demanding a curriculum that thoroughly depicts our contributions and unique traditions; demanding why there has not been enough outreach to keep our Native American history curriculum intact; demanding a reduction of tuition, demanding affordable housing, or demanding why the African-American Center is still without a director.
Yet a demand on its face is just an opinion if it lacks the support of a sizeable mass sold on an explicit, detailed vision of how things should and could be.
Thus, we examine our Black problems through the lens of those who have begun to galvanize the public around their vision of an inclusiveness that is genuinely conceived and crafted by the people rather than accept some fabricated image presented to prospective students and investors by the institution. Check out our website here.
– Jade Hilton, Matthew Eaglin Daniels, Anatta Okonkwo, Anaja Smith