The independent news organization of Duke University

'A safekeeper of collective memory': Center for Multicultural Affairs hosts 50th anniversary celebration

The Center for Multicultural Affairs held its annual Unity Through Diversity celebration last week with art and speeches to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

The celebration was postponed from last year, so the CMA is currently 51 years old. CMA Director Linda F. Capers explained that the theme of the event was “We were there, and now we are here: Redefining Our Center,” and noted that it was a nod to the physical move of the CMA and many student affinity spaces in the Bryan Center in the last year. 

The 50-year mark also called for introspection, raising the questions, “How do we reconceptualize what physical space means to us and how it should be used? How do we redefine our inner spirit in order to do this work?” Capers said.

Frustrations about space allocations are the latest in a decades-long line of tensions between student groups and administrators, sparked after administrators announced plans to move the Career Center onto the first floor of the Bryan Center in October 2021. 

Affinity group leaders responded that students were not sufficiently consulted, and plans were put on hold. Since then, student leaders and administrators have looked to work towards greater collaboration. 

The Career Center ultimately moved into the bottom level of the Bryan Center, replacing La Casa, the Center for Multicultural Affairs, and the Asian American Pacific Islander Bridge to Action, Solidarity, and Education (AAPI BASE). 

La Casa and AAPI BASE are now temporarily housed in the middle level of the Bryan Center. CMA temporarily moved to the Bryan Center’s first floor, replacing the Office of Student Affairs’ space. 

When packing and relocating, CMA Assistant Director Alex Espaillat and CMA Graduate Assistant Markita Briggs discussed how the Center began to reflect on the historical archives it had produced and collected. They pointed out how each table’s centerpiece at the celebration was a replica of some sort of archived document relating to the center: past flyers, demands from the Center and Chronicle articles. 

The two also discussed the importance of “honoring the legacy of Africana students,” as it was the takeover of the Allen building and subsequent list of demands that led to the establishment of the Office of Black Affairs, which eventually became the CMA.

The historical legacy of the Unity Through Diversity event itself was also presented through a recorded video of former CMA Graduate Assistant Christina Chia. She mentioned how student movements pushed forward the existence of the event, and that the CMA acts as an “intergenerational partner for Duke students of color” and provides “critical support that students need to navigate complicated university terrains.” Chia pointed to the CMA serving as “a safekeeper of collective memory.”

The event also included a vibrant salsa performance from Sabrosura, Duke’s premier Latin dance troupe, and three students presented the art they made at the zine workshop series hosted by the CMA earlier this semester. Maij Vu Mai, CMA assistant director and workshop lead, said they had been inspired by bell hook’s “All About Love: New Vision” to ask about leading, expanding and being rooted in love. First-year Michael Ramos and seniors Rebekah Alvarenga and Alice Chun all noted the scariness of love, Chun noting especially, “at an institution where vulnerability can be costly.”

The ceremony was brought to a close with the acknowledgements and awards given to four honorees, deans and directors of the CMA from 1974 to current day.

Editor’s Note: Michael Ramos is a staff writer of The Chronicle.

Aida Guo profile
Aida Guo | Staff Reporter

Aida Guo is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


Share and discuss “'A safekeeper of collective memory': Center for Multicultural Affairs hosts 50th anniversary celebration ” on social media.