Performances based on Mongolian hip hop and a keynote speaker kicked off the Critical Conversations conference in the Memorial Union, a series of events intended to promote dialogue and understanding between groups of people from all walks of life.
Jared Pigeon, the program coordinator for North Dakota State’s multicultural programs and planning committee member of the Critical Conversations conference, said, “Events that highlight diversity and bring out the uniqueness in cultures while highlighting similarities are very critical and important when we live in such a globalized world in order to give everybody a new set of experiences that they have to be the witness to, to become who they are and to be culturally prepared and culturally more sensitive as they move forward to a career after graduation.”
Events that highlight diversity have not always been common at NDSU but as the population of students of color and international students increased, the events became increasingly valued.
Pigeon said events such as Critical Conversations started from hard work and people’s thoughts across campus.
“A few of us were honored enough to get on the planning committee to make this happen,” Pigeon said. “With our students of color increasing in enrollment and (we are) trying to create a better experience for all the folks here. Events like this are mandatory, I believe, in order for each person to feel at home and welcomed.”
The object of such events are to bring up the differences and create an understanding between people and between cultures in an effort to build bridges between people and strengthen the NDSU community.
Between the three-day event are four keynote speakers: Micheal J. Strand, a professor in the visual arts department, Micheal Yellow Bird, a sociology professor and director of Indigenous Tribal Studies, Aida Martinez-Freeman, director of the Lealtad-Suzuki Center at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Inquoris “Inky” Johnson, a motivational speaker.
Strand focused telling audience members about his work connecting art and social engagement using examples like school groups and senior groups decorating sandbags for Fargo’s flood season, the speech being titled “Unifying Voices.”
Yellow Bird is known for his writing, teaching, research and increasing community knowledge on the health, leadership, cultural rights, colonization and decolonization, war, traditions, customs and lifestyle of Indigenous peoples.
Martinez-Freeman’s speech directed the audience’s attention towards the role of education within the communities of minorities or lower income families and is looking for solutions to the problems she sees no matter how complicated.
Johnson is a former athlete who now lives with a paralyzed right arm and other physical challenges after being tackled in a football game. He uses his story of overcoming adversity to inspire those around him to achieve their dreams.
The critical conversations happened in the Memorial Union earlier this week.