Red Square and Diversity

Red Square and Diversity - A Buffalo Grazing - Antioch College

A Periodic Column by Steve Duffy ’77, Library Circulation Specialist

Steve Duffy This second week of September has brought some of this year’s best weather. Imagine Yellow Springs with a long string of cool, crisp mornings, yet pleasantly warm afternoons with abundant sunshine! These are unbearable days to be inside, and yet, Antiochians are having finals as summer term 2012 heads to a close.

A quick cure for fall fever for me was to take a stroll over to North Hall and take a peek at Red Square. It is easy to see the solar panels on North Hall’s roof from a distance, but to see Red Square, a walk was really a necessity. When I had a tour of the North Hall renovations some weeks ago, the insides were pretty much finished, but Red Square was still a work in progress.

Like many Antiochians over many decades, I have tons of memories of Red Square. Probably most alumni feet have crossed it at one time or another, perhaps to go to class, to the dorms, student accounts, a midnight movie in Kelly Hall, the mailroom, or some office. Lots of us have rallied and danced on or around that square. For decades on Fridays and Saturdays (weather permitting), villagers and students might dance the night away under the stars or moon by Main Building.

I spent quite a few sweaty weekend evenings on Red Square myself. The tulip poplar tree in the center of the square had a speaker and some lights resting on one of its center limbs. It helped fill the air with Israeli, Bulgarian, Romanian, Greek, or Macedonian music with its exotic instruments, rhythms, and harmonies. There were vigorous line dances, polka, and salty dog rag moments. Those magical evenings had classes at 8 p.m., followed by free play or requests, and would go on well past midnight.

On Cinco de Mayo in 2010, before new faculty and students came, we had a community workday to spruce up the grounds and build some sweat equity. Red Square had become a lonely and desolate place with tall grasses growing in between bricks. I decided that that would be my Cinco de Mayo work project. It turned out to be a larger and more difficult project than one day could fix. There were potholes, and upon pulling up some grasses, bricks would crumble. By the day’s end, I looked like a lobster and not a Buffalo as I was totally sunburned. I was also upset as I remembered what a fun spot that had been for so many Antiochians.

Well, 26 months or so later, and Red Square is reborn. It seems a little larger. The bricks are in a nice herringbone pattern and the tulip poplar tree remains in the center, but that tree has been tormented by a summer of drought and construction equipment. Right now, the tree has a funny shape, but doubtlessly will grow back out and fill that space again as the Class of 2016 arrives in the blink of an eye.

Whether or not the sounds of Greece, Yugoslavia, or Israel waft across Red Square again remains to be seen as culture preferences evolve. What once was cool might now be considered corny.

This entering class may bring some new dance preferences to Red Square, as it will the most diverse class we have ever had.

And speaking of diversity, there is a campus Diversity Working Group. It began to form late last fall when students were complaining that their needs weren’t being met. Maryann Otuwa ’15 started grabbing a number of us on campus. She alerted many of us to some needs we all might begin to address so students could have an easier ride. This working group has met at regular intervals and is in the planning stages for a series of film events, lectures, and workshops throughout the upcoming year.

The Diversity Working Group includes Louise Smith ’77, dean of community life; Eric Miller ’81, annual fund officer; Jennifer Berman ’83, consultant for community life; Maya Nye ’99, alumni relations officer for volunteer management; Joanna Kohout ’04, resident life manager; and Shane Creepingbear ’06, admission counselor. Randle Charles, RA is a regular, as well as Kevin McGruder, assistant professor of history; Geneva Gano, assistant professor of literature; Rev. Derrick Weston, director of the Coretta Scott King Center; Jaton Brame, academic administrator; and Maryann Otuwa, Rachel Smith ’15, and Sam Senzek ’15. And, of course, Steven Duffy ’77.

Collectively we are white, black, native American, straight, gay, from different cultures, have counseling experience, have worked in non-profits, done HIV awareness, and worked with gay and trans people. Some of us are even on the religious side. So we celebrate diversity in all its manifestations.

The committee is open to all. In fact, some alums have sat in on some meetings during volunteer work weeks, such as Gary Houseknecht ’66 and Charley Brown ’82. Our first all-day retreat was held in the library after a Community Meeting. Derrick Weston served as our facilitator. We started by writing down certain things about ourselves that we felt defined us. We also broke up into smaller groups, and talked about what we felt brought shame or pride into our lives, and what made us feel angry. There was much laughter and a definite feeling that we could be a team.

There are vision, mission, and value statements, as well as subcommittees, but there is not enough space to squeeze all this information into this small missive. There is talk among the group of establishing an office or open, safe space setting in the new community government space, which will be in the basement of the Sontag-Fels building.

The Diversity Group is hosting a “National Coming Out Day” lecture and presentation on October 11 called “Coming Out or Inviting In?” with Kevin McGruder. Drawing on his personal experiences, his work as executive director of Gay Men of African Descent in New York City, and recent scholarship by activist Darnell Moore, McGruder will discuss some of the challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trangendered people seeking to live lives of integrity in a predominantly heterosexual world. For more information, contact Kevin McGruder at .

The Diversity Working Group is also the sponsor of a dance during New Student Orientation. Each month and each season, there will be something different on the group’s menu as we celebrate diversity in all its manifestations. There may be intervals of some soul-searching moments, some education and maybe some laughter. If you are interested or have a way to provide some resources or skills, contact one of us. And come to campus visit with us, and check out the spruced-up Red Square, too!