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ICC celebrates its 15th anniversary

By helenltemp

Section: News

March 9, 2007

Last Sunday, members of the Brandeis community gathered to mark the Intercultural Centers (ICC) fifteenth anniversary with an event that celebrated the centers history and importance on campus.

The event, called Telling Our Story, was held fifteen years to the day of the founding of the ICC on March 4, 1992, according to ICC Director Monique Gnanaratnam. It included a buffet of international foods, performances by Brandeis students, and a keynote address by Anthony Brooks, a Brandeis alumnus who was a member of the original push committee that was influential in the creation of the ICC. It was a joyous and momentous occasion, said Gnanaratnam.

Since it was founded, the ICC has become an integral part of life at Brandeis. Among its functions, it has fourteen organizations that fall under its umbrella, Gnanaratnam explained. Each of these organizations puts out some kind of education to celebrate their culture each year. Leaders of student organizations associated with the ICC spoke of the importance of the ICC for minority students at Brandeis.

Without the Intercultural Center, Brandeis would likely not be able to attract and retain as diverse a student body, said Jerome Frierson 07, Co-President of the Brandeis Black Student Organization, in an email to the Hoot.

Meredyth Gonzalez 09, Co-President of Brandeis Latino/Hispanic group AHORA, stated that the ICC functions as a place to meet other minorities on campus and start building connections.

However, students associated with the ICC were also quick to emphasize the importance of the ICC for the entire Brandeis community, especially in its role as a sponsor of events that promote cultural awareness on campus.

I think [the ICC] is important for the Brandeis campus as a whole because we are able to teach the rest of the Brandeis campus about our different cultures, explained Gonzalez.

There are so many times when the ICC brings up issues that broaden our minds.
Ithas a capacity to bring issues to campus that certain other groups do not, said Ashley Pham 08, Core Coordinator of the Society Organized Against Racism, and an organizer of Sundays event.

Frierson agreed, adding that historically, [the ICC] has encouraged political activism and provided the platform for dialogues and discussions about tough issues.

The origin of the ICC was, according to the centers website, in the 1960s, when the Afro-American Association requestedan African Cultural Center.

The center was also envisioned at one time as a multicultural library, but the idea quickly expanded into that of an Intercultural Center. Dean of Student Life Richard Sawyer, who has worked at Brandeis for twenty-six years, said an awful lot of the original work was to set up a resource for studentsto read books about different cultures.

By the 1990s, the Push Committee was campaigning for an Intercultural Center. Soon, the committee presented an outline to the [university] president explaining how they thought the ICC could be beneficial, explained Gnanaratnam.

In the past fifteen years, the ICC has continued to expand its role on campus. When the ICC started out, it didnt have all the organizations that are now a part of it, said Gnanaratnam. There were members of [the PUSH Committee] there on Sunday. They were overwhelmed about how the center has continued to grow.

I think theres been a transformation during the history of the ICC, said Sawyer. Originallythe ICC had some design as a haven, as a safe harbor. Now, its a projection its an idea, its an influence.

In the future, many feel that the ICC could grow to serve more than just the Brandeis community. I hope to see the ICC go beyond the Brandeis campus, said Gnanaratnam.

Sawyer agreed. In the next fifteen years, the ICC could become more than just a resource for Brandeis. It could become a regional resource, he said.

Jamele Adams, Assistant Dean of Student Life in Support of Diversity, said Brandeis should be proud of what it has already accomplished with the ICC. The fact that its been here fifteen years is no easy feat, he said. Its significant because Brandeis is such a young university.”

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