Forum to Discuss Racial SegregationBy Jackson Jung
The Association for Asian, Hispanic, African, and Native Americans will sponsor a forum on race relations Wednesday.
AHANA President Fritz Francis '93 said he hopes to direct the discussion towards the apparent separation of racial groups at the Institute. Separation, as opposed to segregation, is division which has occurred voluntarily, he said.
The timing of the event, which was planned at the beginning of the term, is unrelated to recent racial tensions between Phi Beta Epsilon and Chocolate City, Francis added.
Francis plans to begin the forum by statistically demonstrating the degree of separation which exists here at MIT. A number of old Tech stories involving racial issues or opinions on campus will then be distributed to the participants to invite discussion.
"[People] should not be afraid to cross over from time to time and not receive intolerances on the other side," Francis said. While there is "nothing wrong with separation," and people should be "allowed to freely" associate with whomever they please, it is important to "occasionally integrate."
Francis said he hopes to attract more fraternity members and people "who may not be as aware of all the issues as people of color." AHANA has also sponsored a similar discussion on students of African descent in predominantly white fraternities. According to Francis, that event drew approximately 70 participants and lasted three hours.
The purpose of AHANA is to provide the opportunity for "crossover" and "help breakdown social barriers in the community," Francis said.
AHANA currently has about 50 members on its roster, Francis said. In addition to the discussions it sponsors, it also promotes a lecture each term on racial issues. Last term, the lecture was on the history of affirmative action.
In May, AHANA will present a lecture on the organization of a program of study in ethnic studies at MIT. "Every school has one except MIT," Francis said. Professors from the humanities department, and possibly the political science and urban planning and development departments will be speaking.
AHANA also recently participated in a project with a number of local universities to stress to young minorities the importance of higher education. Minority high school students were invited to Boston College to hear community leaders, including a number of university presidents, speak about the issue.
In April, AHANA has planned a social to bring together students of Indian descent and of African descent. In addition, the organization will be conducting a fund raising event for international and minority Residence/Orientation Week activities.
Because the organization was formed only last summer, fund raising is an important activity for AHANA. According to Francis, while AHANA is receiving some minimal support from the Undergraduate Association Finance Board, he has had to put in about $200 of his own money.