The future forum, hosted by the Unity Mural Project, triggered a conversation between the audience of roughly 50 students and staff in McKenny Ballroom, March 28. The forum led to audience members suggesting who should be included in the design of the mural based on who has been the most visible presence in the movement towards unity on campus.
The Unity Mural Project hosted a forum to discuss Eastern Michigan University's future. The “future” forum was designed to encourage ideas from the community that will be incorporated into the design of the unity mural, which is set to be painted by winter 2018 along the wall of the common space located on the ground floor of McKenny Hall.
The concept for the design of the unity mural is a lineage style story of the university’s past, present and future. The lead student organizers of the Unity Mural Project are Steven Kwasny and Leangle Runels. In addition, Tytiana Steele is lead mural designer with help from Sasha Zein. Diane Brinson-Days has been a lead staff organizer, and Virginia Camille Zimmerman-Ouellette has been a lead alumni organizer. Also, the project has the support of over 25 student organizations and additional support from administration and faculty.
The forum began with guest speaker, Dr. Ebraheim Khalifeh Soltani, political science department. He explained that the future of EMU is in the hands of it’s students. Following the guest speaker, the attendees at each table suggested ideas at each table that can be incorporated into the “future” segment of the mural design. Then after the table discussions the audience came together to record the suggestions.
“The future is full of opportunity. Here on campus the future is an opportunity to create positive change,” said Steven Kwasny, co-organizer.
When the attendees of the event came together to share their suggestions a conversation began across the audience discussing the roles different races have played in the movement towards a greater sense of inclusion on campus.
“We don’t agree with the unity mural because administration still hasn’t showed support for student protesters, and specifically black students that were protesting,” said Jasmine Reynoso, EMU student. “I think the unity mural is a cool idea, but the fact that it is suppose to be a response to the racist vandalism, it just isn’t really addressing the issue. The mural doesn’t automatically bring us all together, nor does it highlight the students that have worked and are still working to make sure the issues don’t go away,” she continued.
Some students voiced their belief that white people should not be displayed through the design of the unity mural because the racial vandalism did not target white people, and because they did not see white people visibly at the forefront of the student led protests that occurred following the racial vandalism on campus in fall 2016. In response some audience members suggested that if white people are included in the design of the mural their presence should play a lesser more supporting role in the design.
The forum did not end with the entire audience coming to a consensus on what background of people to include in the mural’s design, however the recorder of the suggestions filled up both sides of a white board with suggestions of ideas that can be incorporated such as; more campus involvement for a wider array of students, more support from non people of color, and more communication between the different levels of hierarchy within the campus community.
What are your future aspirations for Eastern Michigan University? How can they can contribute to the design of the unity mural? Follow the Unity Mural Project on Instagram @EMUunity2017 and suggest your ideas.