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UAAS encourages everyone ‘not to be defined solely by the color of our skin’

USD’s Union of African American Students (UAAS) hosted the “Beyond The Color” event in the MUC ballroom on Feb. 15 in recognition of Black History Month. This formal, RSVP-only event showcased speakers such as Megan Red Shirt-Shaw and Marcus Destin who presented on discovering personal identity beyond race. 

Sophomore Ntombi Ngeleka, UAAS’s vice president, played a central role in the planning of the event. 

“There is just so much more to people under the surface,” Ngeleka said. “(The UAAS) wants to bring people together, I think since the beginning, that’s what the Union’s been for.” 

This event’s speakers, Red Shirt-Shaw and Destin, both spoke on how the event provided space for USD students to engage in conversation about their respective lived experiences being perceived in the bodies they inhabit while hearing and relating to the lived experience of the speakers themselves. 

UAAS is made up of approximately 120 students. The diversity in the members of the Union provided them with motivation to select event speakers that successfully differed to the point of being able to innately appeal to a larger variety of students’ stories, Ngeleka said. 

Destin is the university’s social media and brand engagement coordinator and is also involved in several campus organizations including the UAAS and the Cultural Wellness Coalition. 

“(The event) offers the campus and community to open up the conversation more when it comes to diversity,” Destin said. “This event is asking us to think beyond and ask what happens when we look beyond the immediate identities we know and start to peel back the layers.” 

Red Shirt-Shaw, the university’s director of native student services, led the “Beyond the Color” event’s conversation alongside Destin.

“It’s really important for us to create spaces on campus where people are celebrated for the lived experiences that they bring to the table, and I think talking about the ways that we see the world, the way that we experience the world only brings a better understanding of each other in our community to the table,” Red Shirt-Shaw said. “This event is critically important because the ways that people experience the world are different and we need to have more conversations about what that impact is on other people’s experiences as well.”

The invitation to attend the event was open to all USD students and the surrounding community. 

“Although the title may be ‘Beyond the Color,’ it does not mean the color of your skin is being ignored,” Destin said. “Instead, I hope this conversation encourages us to not be defined solely by the color of our skin but by the experiences within that make or have made us who we are.”

The next event hosted by UAAS will be their fourth annual Ruby Ball on March 5.