Wayne Law students embrace multiculturalism with action Student associations organize fieldtrips to 3 museums

By John Minnis

Legal News

Students at Wayne State University Law School are giving more than abstract thought to diversity and multiculturalism. They are, in fact, embracing one another's culture.

To do that, the Jewish Law Student Association, Middle East Law Student Association and Black Law Students Association are inviting fellow students and faculty to join them to visit, over three Sundays in February, the Holocaust Memorial Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Arab American National Museum.

The idea of jointly touring another culture's museum was spawned by successful visits last year by the JLSA and MELSA to their respective culture's institutions.

"Last year, several student leaders and law school staff and faculty noticed that we, as a school, needed to do more to address diversity and inclusion on campus," explained Ruby Robinson, president of the JLSA. "We made this a priority at the law school, both school-wide and for individual student groups."

Inspired by last year's success, the JLSA and MELSA invited their sister organization, the BLSA, to join them.

"This year, we wanted to make this program even more successful," Robinson said. "In addition to the Holocaust Memorial Center and the Arab American National Museum, we thought it would be a great idea to include the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, especially during Black History Month. We reached out to the Black Law Student Association and they happily joined the program."

"My hope in joining this collaboration is that fellow students can understand and embrace the necessary components for cultural awareness and diversity," said BLSA President Victoria McCaskey. "Moreover, I hope those students who attend the tours can impress upon their future colleagues and fellow citizens of Detroit the importance of inclusion of ALL races and cultures."

On Sunday, Feb. 13, at 1 p.m. the JLSA will host a tour of the Holocaust Memorial Center, the nation's first freestanding Holocaust museum, located in Farmington Hills. Participants will be guided on a tour that includes most of the museum's exhibits, beginning with a brief history of the Jewish people and proceeding chronologically from the emergence and rise of Nazi Germany and its propaganda through the Final Solution and the post-War world. As a very special bonus, the tour will culminate with meeting a local survivor who will tell his/her personal account and answer questions.

On Sunday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m., the BLSA hosts a visit to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Included will be a guided tour of "And Still We Rise," a 22-gallery exhibit. The museum tour will kick off a week of BLSA programming for Black History Month.

On Sunday, Feb. 27, at 1 p.m., the MELSA will host a tour of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. A guided tour will begin in the ornate courtyard and then proceed to the three permanent exhibits: "Coming to America," "Living in America" and "Making an Impact." A cultural competency workshop will follow.

"We hope to foster a greater familiarity with, awareness of and appreciation for the diversity of backgrounds and cultures of students at Wayne State University Law School," Robinson said. "Moreover, we hope that students learn about the varying struggles that we, as Americans from varying backgrounds, have faced and continue to face."

Amir Makled, president of the MELSA, commented on why the tours are important to law students.

"These tours will allow us to be better advocates for our city," he said. "Going to each museum allows an individual to see the struggles and accomplishments that each group has been through. It will also allow individuals to realize how similar each group really is.

"Using this new knowledge will better equip us to advocate for the people who are not of the same cultural make-up as ourselves. That is what America is all about. We truly are a cultural melting pot, and standing up for everyone's rights will lift up this town to new heights."

McCaskey said diversity and cultural awareness was one of the reasons she became a leader in the BLSA at Wayne Law.

"With Wayne Law situated in the heart of an urban, heavily populated African-American city, one would think there would be more diversity on campus," she said. "Sadly to say, the number of admitted African-American students has dwindled and continues to do so, increasing the need for diversity and racial tolerance, inside and outside of the classroom.

"In an environment where we, as students, tend to learn from the various opinions and perspectives of our classmates, it remains critically important to develop and cultivate diverse relationships with one another. In building and maintaining those relationships, it's crucial to foster cultural awareness and respect for our fellow classmates' diverse racial backgrounds."

The program is open to the entire Wayne Law community, family and friends. Admission is $4 to $7 per person, depending on the number of participants. RSVP at least four days before the visit to Ruby Robinson, rubyr@wayne.edu, Amir Makled, makled.amir@gmail.com, or Victoria McCaskey, mccaskeyv@gmail.com.

Published: Thu, Feb 10, 2011

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