Spirit of Identity Week: A New Cardinal Tradition

January 25, 2023

The Spirit of Identity Week helped to kick off the spring semester with energy and positivity with a focus on inclusion. Developed by student affinity groups with the assistance of Laura Fitzgerald, director of student engagement and leadership, and Senior Diversity Officer Dr. Marlowe Washington, this initiative was designed to help celebrate the unique cultures and communities found on campus.

The week began on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and culminated on Saturday, Jan. 21, with the student affinity groups including the Asian Student Union, Black Student Union, Muslim Student Association, Latiné Student Union, and Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) convening to host a series of meaningful discussions surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion. The week ended with a  celebration of identity, where all of the groups  came together to celebrate their diverse cultures and identities.

The MLK Black Excellence Legacy Gala, hosted by the Black Student Union, kicked off the week, and each day featured events hosted by individual student affinity groups. Discussions ranged from topics such as religion and identity, to art and intersectionality. Some events featured keynote speakers including alumnus Christopher Rush ’12, executive director of the Champion Academy Extreme Mentoring and Empowerment Initiative, and Shaheed Ali, representing the Islamic Center of Rochester. Other events featured speakers including Nydia Padilla-Rodriguez, founder and artistic director of Borinquen Dance Theatre, as well as Marie-Adélina de la Ferrière, public relations specialist at equalpride, an LGTBQ+ media and advocacy group.

The week’s final event, Hear Our Voices: Celebration of Identity, recognized a handful of students from each club for their efforts both on campus and in representing campus affinity groups. The Latiné Student Union awarded the Servidor De La Cultura award to Ashley Henriquez. Michael Lilholt received the Black Student Union’s I Have a Dream Award. Puja Magar accepted the Asian Student Union’s Perfect Presence award, and Degraj Suberi secured the Most Enthusiastic award from the Muslim Student Association. SAGA distributed two awards, with Sydney Isaacs receiving the Queer Activist award and Thomas Minahan receiving Club Member of the Year.

The final celebration also featured cultural performances from students including dancing, singing, and fashion, showcasing the different communities that exist on campus. 

St. John Fisher University’s inaugural Spirit of Identity Week was well received by  faculty, staff, and students alike. 

“The Spirit of Identity Week was developed in collaboration with the student affinity groups to create opportunities for students to experience the idea of individual expressions, cultural differences, and a sense of belonging at Fisher,” said Fitzgerald. “It was truly a wonderful experience where students were able to express and share their culture with the community. This is the first of what will hopefully be an annual week of events.”

This article was written by Tyler Cole, ‘23, a cybersecurity major and PR Writing Intern in the Office of Marketing and Communications.