A large group of students, alumni, faculty and guests gathered Sunday to celebrate the anniversary of the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs and the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center. Since their founding, MESA and the Trotter House have aimed to promote acceptance and multicultural development by informing and supporting University student organizations.
By mid-afternoon on Sunday, about 70 people joined the anniversary celebration at the Trotter House on Washtenaw Avenue. Visitors were greeted by the sound of jazz music to celebrate the commencement of the year-long commemoration. Multiple speakers, singers, rappers and students expressed their gratitude and reflections about the organization and the center at the event.
Evans Young, LSA assistant dean for undergraduate education and the opening speaker at the event, said that throughout the center’s 40-year history, there have been two constant factors — challenges working with “very limited budgets” and the dedication of community members.
“In the face of those budgets and just by the nature of the people involved, a history of very creative staff, students and faculty engaged in making this a home for students of color at the University of Michigan,” Young said.
MESA and the Trotter Multicultural Center started in 1971 after the Black Action Movement sponsored demonstrations at the University. The series of events prompted awareness of a need for a campus organization for black students in which important issues could be addressed. In 1981, the organization expanded to include students of all races and ethnicities.
Lester Monts, the University’s senior vice provost for academic affairs, said at the event that student protest was “very effective in bringing about change” during MESA and Trotter’s beginnings.
Monts ended his address by donating $10,000 of his office’s budget to MESA and Trotter House’s newly-established annual fund.
Henry Johnson, vice president emeritus of Student Services at the University, told the audience of the progress the organization has made to achieve its current position on campus.
“I think the corner has been turned and Trotter House is beginning to fulfill its mission as a multicultural programming site,” Johnson said.
MESA aids numerous student organizations including events organized by sorority Delta Tau Lambda — a traditionally Latina sorority that represents all women of color.
LSA sophomore Guadalupe Ayala, a member of Delta Tau Lambda, said she decided to attend Sunday’s event to support her sorority sister who spoke on the student panel. Ayala said she also wanted to show her appreciation for MESA helping the sorority with multiple events and programming.
“(Trotter House is) a place where we can come and actually be heard and supported to put up our events on campus,” she said
The University of Michigan Gospel Chorale, formerly the University of Michigan Black Gospel Choir, performed at the event, and was followed by reflections from faculty and students involved with MESA.
LSA senior Jessica Perez spoke on a student panel that discussed the influence MESA and the Trotter House have had on students’ lives and the future of the organization.
“I think it’s time for MESA-Trotter, especially with this 40-year mark, to see where they have come from but not to stop,” Perez said. “There’s a lot of hard issues just waiting (to be addressed) … and I think it’s time.”
Rackham student Kya Mangrum said she came to the event not knowing much about MESA’s or the Trotter House’s history.
“I was really impressed by the sense of community here — the sense that people felt at home here,” Mangrum said. “It was enlightening, and I think it’s going to encourage me to come visit more.”