Brooks-Devita speaks on diversity
A single family's arrival at Saint Mary's last year ushered in a wave of diversity to the predominantly white campus.
With Alexis Brooks-Devita as an Assistant Professor in English and her two daughters, Johnea and Novella, as students, the trio is the largest African-American family at the College.
As of 2001, according to the Office of Intercultural Affairs, there are 18 African-American Saint Mary's students enrolled. This number represents an increasing trend that the College hopes to continue.
"The increase of minorities will improve quality on campus, especially for Euro-American students," Alexis Brooks-Devita said. "It is important for students to deal with what the world is really like."
So far, however, there is not much visible progress. Across the board, the family agreed that there is need for improvement in the area of student-professor relations in the classroom.
"A professor tries to bring up a topic of African-American culture, and I feel the obligation to correct the professor but also don't want to be a spokesperson for my race," said Johnea Brooks-Devita, a junior humanistic studies major. "I end up feeling suffocated."
These uncomfortable situations caused Johnea Brooks-Devita to drop two classes in two semesters at Saint Mary's. But she's learned from her experiences.
"[You can't] nurture negative messages that lower the morale of minorities," she said.
Her mother empathizes with her daughter.
"She felt like a visual aide," the professor said. "Singling out minorities does not teach the white students, and it keeps the minorities away."
Through the Strategic Plan Diversity Committee and events such as black author Rebecca Walker's lecture Tuesday, the College is seemingly addressing these issues.
"Students really try to reach out to situations that they are not familiar with," said Novella Brooks-Devita, a first-semester junior English major. "Saint Mary's tries to interact and to increase availability for this interaction to happen, and they are growing in their ability to do this well."
Today officially marks the end of Black History Month but not an end to the awareness it raises, according to the family. Novella Brooks-Devita said people must be aware of the sensitivity of acknowledging race while not singling out minorities.
All News Stories for Thursday, February 28, 2002