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MCTC Equity and Inclusion Division launch

Solidarity in Sovereignty

Musicians brought flavor of West African
drumming tradition to the event.

On March 17, 2017, faculty, staff and community members joined together in unity and celebration to support the College’s mission, vision and values and to launch MCTC’s Equity and Inclusion Division. Being a community leader in inclusion and equity is one of the College’s four strategic priorities through 2020. The creation of this division signals a significant movement toward embedding inclusion and equity more profoundly into the campus culture.

Wakinyan and Thorne LaPointe of the
Sicangu Lakota Nation. Wakinyan is an
MCTC alumnus.

The event began with the raw power and energy of a trio of drummers bringing traditional drum styles of West Africa, who captured the attention of the crowd. MCTC President Sharon Pierce’s opening remarks followed, emphasizing the importance of collaboration, maintaining our unique identities and seeking balance in our lives on an individual, familial, community and nationwide level. "Diversity is at the heart of MCTC’s mission and I am in awe of the work that has been accomplished across our campus to create inclusion-focused culture change," said Dr. Pierce. "We must serve as leaders in inclusion and equity in order to transform educational and employment outcomes for diverse populations in our community."

“MCTC is committed to the ever-changing needs of our student population,” said Dr. Jay Williams, interim chief diversity officer, who considers himself a facilitator of the hopes and dreams of the students at MCTC. “Our Equity and Inclusion team consists of educators, advisors, advocates and community leaders who are focused on helping to break down institutional barriers to access and information, decoding processes and procedures and giving a personal touch to our historically marginalized and at-risk students.”

Understanding the stories of Indigenous People
At the heart of the celebration, Wakinyan and Thorne LaPointe, members of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, and Indigenous Organizers, from Rosebud, South Dakota, reflected on their values as Native Peoples through song and storytelling. "We are honored to be here as Indigenous People, representing the oldest and wisest nations in the world," said Thorne LaPointe, who celebrates the distinctiveness and richness of cultures alongside his brother Wakinyan. "Indigenous people hold the longest relationship with democracy, peace, justice and sovereignty and spirituality is our reality."

"It is important for each of us to understand the story of the Indigenous People," said Wakinyan Lapointe, MCTC alumni, now studying political science at the University of Minnesota. "And every student needs to stand on the front lines for their community, while remembering we all came in to a story that already existed. It’s a broader, strengths-based story focusing on our relationship and respect for Mother Earth."

MCTC student clubs engage and support our campus community
As the event unfolded, Jonathon Lofgren, MCTC Addiction Counseling faculty, was honored for his steadfast work on behalf of African American Education Empowerment Program (AME) and Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) and for making MCTC a recovery campus. Lofgren recognizes people cope with stress in a variety of ways. "It is vital that we ensure students have access to support in their recovery that integrates compassion and peace," said Lofgren.

Chicanx/Latinx Club Advisor Rosa Shannon shared the importance of giving everyone the right to a solid education. As advisor to the prominent student organization on campus supporting Latino students, Shannon has seen students from various Spanish-speaking countries attend MCTC. "Our goal is to offer peer support, cultural activities and community outreach projects to engage students at the College," said Shannon. "We are now working to secure a physical space for our students to gather on campus."

At the close of the event, Dr. Jesse Mason, founder of MCTC’s African American Education Empowerment Program, emphasized the importance of listening to each others stories and authentically telling our own. "It is a gift to both share and hear the stories of people in our community," said Dr. Mason, who is now an academic dean at Century College. "The more pride you have in your culture, the more accepting of others you can be. Come forth with courage, fortitude, resolve and tenacity. Stand up against discrimination. Recognize everyone is at a different point on their journey. Strive to be excellent in character. Be genuine and uniquely real. And ask yourself, how much capacity you have to include others."

The organizers of the Equity and Inclusion event celebrates a diverse grouping of students and staff, including Al Brown and Sarah Sharp of AME, Isaac Deragon of the American Indian Success Program and Estefania Navarro of the Star Scholars program.