East Carolina University’s Native American Association will team up with the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center to host an event regarding cultural awareness, specifically among the Native American community.
Mariza James, assistant director of the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, has organized the event along with the ECU Native American Organization. The event, titled “My Culture Is Not A Costume,” will be held in the Main Campus Student Center tomorrow at noon. There are additional dates throughout the month of October.
“The goal of this campaign is to reduce the use of stereotypical costumes that represent people’s cultures,” James said. “This campaign will help students become aware of stereotypes among cultures and how to avoid representing cultures in a negative or inappropriate way.”
James said the event will focus on cultural appropriation among the Native American community, especially prevalent through costumes. As a result of the event, she hopes to see individuals stop appropriating other cultures.
Beyond the university, James hopes to see change as well, to end the insensitive costumes worn by some people.
“Students will be able to share the knowledge with other students and individuals in the community in hopes of reducing the incidence of cultural appropriation,” James said.
With Halloween around the corner, James said she hopes this event will encourage students to reach out to their own communities and push for a change in the way we view cultural appreciation.
Students will have the opportunity to speak at the event and explain how their culture is not an appropriate costume.
Jahad Carter, senior political science and communications double major and Student Government Association member, said the event is important for students.
“It’s all about acknowledgment and recognition. As an African American male, I see how there is a system that has been systematically set up against us; and I think that all of our issues stem from a lack of repairing what has gone wrong,” Carter said.
Carter explained how this country was overcome by a race that refused to acknowledge Native culture, and therefore we have grown up in a glamorized history.
Columbus Day is traditionally recognized as a celebration of the discovery of native land. One of the Culture not Costume events will coincide with this date, but the day will be more about celebrating Indigenous People's Day.
“If you ever really look at the school system that we are put in, one of the issues is the romanticization with Christopher Colombus as the best person ever, and the lack of conversations and engagement when it comes to cultural appropriation,” Carter said.
The timing of the event is also new for the ECNAO, as it is the first time event that they hope to turn into an annual thing.
Shaun Simon, associate director for the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center said the event is one which she hopes will expand past indigenous people.
“I hope that this event includes students of all races, because it is important for others to express their anger at what this nation has done, and so I would hope that students take what we will discuss and take it to their own little communities of family and friends,” Simon said.
Simon said the idea to create an event popped into her head in August. The idea is to give a voice to the faculty and staff to educate each other, rather than have someone come and speak about the issues.
“The Ledonia Wright Cultural Center and ECNAO is the perfect combination when it comes to addressing the issues of cultural appropriation,” Simon said.
The issue of cultural appropriation goes beyond just wearing indigenous inspired clothes, Simon said. The event is a starting point for what the center hopes to accomplish within the community’s culture.
“Even when a student or individual puts on a headdress or hair feathers, it is more the lack of education and just the general ignorance that comes along with being a member of society,” Simon said.
The event will begin today and will go every Wednesday until the end of the month, and will be open to all students. The first 100 RSVP will receive a free T-shirt.