April 1st, 2008 14:47 EST
In 1988, United Cultures at Taft (UCT) was established to sponsor dances and other events for the students from all cultures. It also organized trips to other schools to discuss cross-cultural issues and attend events sponsored by groups interested in cultural matters. Today, under the direction of H.K. Seo, ’07, and Ashley Barronette, ‘07, Luther Masanto, ’08, and Charmaine Lester, ’07, UCT has a slightly different purpose.
Recently, Taft-Asian-African-Latino-Student-Alliance (TAALSA) headed by Daquan Mickens, ’08, and Shanika Audige, ’08, has merged with UCT by vote of the members of both groups. This change highlights how an increasing number of people are feeling the need for a more unified, stronger group that can more effectively influence the Taft community. Some miss having TAALSA as a safe-haven support group for incoming African-American and Hispanic students. Others, however, felt that the group defeated its purpose of helping Taft to be more conducive for integration. “It caused an unnecessary segregation,” says Carissa Blossom, ’08, a student of mixed heritage from Singapore, “only Afro, Asian and Latino students were welcome.” Most members of TAALSA/UCT feel that it is now time to move on from merely complaining about minority disaffection and try to make positive changes. With the merge, no student will have the option of saying that they are not a part of UCT or TAALSA because they feel unwelcome or excluded. UCT is for everyone. “Everyone needs to learn about diversity. Everyone needs help getting adjusted [to the Taft environment],” says Ashley Barronette, ’07.
A main goal of the new UCT is to spread cultural awareness throughout the Taft community. “We want to have a day when people could really groove it— what it means to have different cultures coexist in the world and how this is a really desirable and enriching fact.”
WE THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED CULTURES AT TAFT DETERMINED to appreciate and educate ourselves about the beauty of Taft and this world’s colorful and extraordinary community and to open the hearts of people including those of ourselves, thereby bringing that appreciation into the forefront of Taft's common consciousness, and to promote social awareness and community involvement at Taft and beyond, and to meet community needs while advocating structural change, and to promote progress and better standards of Taft life.
One proposal for doing so is hosting a fair that involves the entire school to get together with good, exotic music, food and fun. “This would be a way to influence the Taft community so that we think and feel that having different cultures coexist in the world is a very desirable, enriching thing,” says H.K. Seo, ’07. Another idea discussed at UCT’s most recent meeting was forming connections with local high schools so that we may reach outside of the “Taft Bubble” in our endeavor to spread cultural awareness.TAALSA was very much needed back in 1990 when it was first established to create a base upon which to unify the Black and Hispanic minority students in their transition from home to the Taft environment because there was very small African American and Hispanic percentage and they needed the support because racism and prejudice was more apparent. Now, that Taft is more culturally diverse, the racial barrier is a lot thinner. Minorities no longer need the "special attention" that TAALSA provided them. Shanika Audige, ’08, says, “With the merge of UCT, the voice of Diversity is going to be even stronger. I see some big changes in our school ahead.”