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MLK center hurt by lack of History Month cash

WILL SEBERGER/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alex Wright, director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center, said yesterday that the center will not be doing as much as hoped this year for Black History Month, because of a small budget.
By Walter E. Staton
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, February 3, 2004
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Because of a loss of funding, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center will only be able to offer two programs this semester to celebrate Black History Month.

Alex Wright, director of African American Student Affairs, said UA budget cuts and the loss of key members in a fund-raising committee contributed to the center's lack of money.

Wright said $12,000 was raised two years ago by the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee. That money was used to bring entertainers, movie producers and art exhibits to the university throughout the year. The money is now gone, and the committee that raised it needs to be revived.

This year, Wright can only fund a drum performance and a semester-long film series.

The Celebration Committee consisted of 14 faculty and community members. Since 2002, half of the members have left the university, and the others said Wright grew burnt-out.

"We lost the people power," Wright said, adding that he will reorganize the committee.

Saundra Taylor, the vice president for Campus Life, oversees the funding for the four multicultural centers on campus. The MLK center, along with the other culture centers, lost 4 percent of its funding two years ago.

Taylor said she is making it a high priority to direct more resources back to the centers in the future.

"As disappointing as I think it is, we don't have (multicultural) programming. We still have the centers," Taylor said.

The all-funds budget process is where money is allocated to the culture centers. This year, said Taylor, there was no money to be allocated. Whether the money is available or not, Wright said raising students' interest in events is another issue.

"We put the info out there for those who are interested," Wright said. But the UA doesn't have the community to support that interest, Wright said, because people take their civil rights for granted.

"Black History Month is about recognizing the accomplishments and achievements of black America," Wright said. "But it's also about a much greater thing than black peoples' struggles - it's about progress for everyone. Civil rights benefited everyone."

Derrick Copeland, a microbiology junior, wants to see educational workshops during Black History Month.

"It's about King's message, unifying the nation together," Copeland said.

Rashad Robinson, an aerospace engineering senior, said it was upsetting to find out this year's events will be cut. Robinson acknowledged that Black History Month encompasses more than just black history and said February may as well be called American History Month.

Forums and parades are how Skyler Miles, a music sophomore, would like to see Black History Month celebrated.

"It's one month to learn history from another perspective," Miles said, adding that not having events deprives everyone.

Black History Month would even help with racial tensions on campus, said Greg Tate, a pre-business junior. He said he notices people looking at him because of his skin color.

According to Tate, Black History Month events could help with that problem "big time" by educating students to make them more culturally aware.

These are all concerns that Wright and the student center are aware of, but it requires people power and money to do proper programming, Wright said.

He would like to see a broader spectrum of people, institutions and offices involved with planning, funding and running events.

"The expectations can't be on the shoulder of one person," Wright said.

No matter who is responsible for putting on events, Wright said it is something that must be done.

"People need to be aware," Wright said. "People may not have realized they cared, then (by attending an event) something sparks inside."

The Sounding of the Drums will be one event held this week in celebration of Black History Month. Drummers will play traditional African music from noon to 12:45 p.m. between the Student Union Memorial Center and the Second Street parking garage Thursday.

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