Black Organizations Release Official Statement on “Kanye Western”

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The Afrikan Student Union at UCLA released an official statement on the Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Phi “Kanye Western” party held Monday,October 5,2015:

 

On the night of Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 the UCLA chapters of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority threw a party themed ‘Kanye Western’. At this party, students were encouraged to dress as Kanye West or in Western themed attire. Eyewitnesses reported seeing students wearing pants stuffed to resemble large butts, durags, gold chains and other clothing representative of stereotypical BlackCulture. Some students were even covered in brown paint and black soot to resemble the complexion of African American people.

This incident is further compounded by the fact that it occurred during ASU-sponsored Black Bruin Welcome Week. However, the black experience at UCLA is an ongoing struggle.

Black students comprise 4% of the UCLA student body. Retaining ourselves at a Predominantly White Institution has proved to be extremely challenging over the years, which is clear through the high rates of Black Bruins who are dismissed every year. We as a people feel uncomfortable at our own institution because it almost encourages a campus climate that disrespects and stereotypes communities of color.

We recognize that this as part of a perception that is not only threatening, but immediately harmful to the academic, social, and physical environment of the collective black community within and beyond UCLA. Due to an overwhelming response from all sectors of the Black Bruin Community and the collective convening presence of our community immediately following the event (on the night of October 7th), we the Afrikan Student Union at UCLA verbally re-affirm that we will not accept blatant acts of cultural insensitivity. As a result, we are planning an action for tomorrow, October 8th on Bruin Walk at 12pm to raise communal awareness and provide a healing space for our community in support of our Black Bruins. We will also be following up with UCLA administration to make sure that UCLA no longer fails students of color and does all they can to make the campus climate better for Black students.

Following the release of their statement, the National Pan-Hellenic Council at UCLA also released a statement in solidarity. The National Pan-Hellenic Council is the collection of nine historically African American, international Greek lettered fraternities and sororities.

The National Pan Hellenic Council at UCLA is deeply disheartened by the racially intolerant “KanyeWestern” event hosted by both Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and Alpha Phi Sorority on the night of October 6th.

Some members of the IFC and Pan Hellenic councils have a pattern of completely disregarding not only the culture of historically African American Greek letter organizations, but the culture of communities of color in general. This is not the first time that an event involving cultural insensitivity and racism has occurred. As a historical custom, organizations within both the NPHC and the Latino Greek Council stroll to show brotherhood/sisterhood and have an enjoyable time. For those who do not know the cultural relevance of strolling, the action can be taken as a performance. However there is a difference between performing and showcasing the rich history and culture of one’s organization. Last spring, members of LGC were publicly ridiculed by members of the other councils (excluding NPHC) during the office of Fraternity and Sorority Relations’ end of the year banquet when called to showcase their stroll.
We understand that some people are ignorant and may be unaware of the context or severity of these disrespectful events and actions; however, as a people, it is our job to educate others. Stuffing pants to make bigger butts, wearing huge gold chains and sagging pants, and covering ones skin with soot or brown paint does not reflect an image of Kanye West; it’s a distasteful, ill informed, and intolerable vehicle of cultural appropriation. The events that took place were completely unacceptable and need to be addressed formally.
With that said, NPHC of UCLA remains in solidarity with our Afrikan Student Union and their stance on this issue. We verbally affirm that we will no longer stay silent, look the other way, or accept any event such as the one that occurred on Tuesdaynight. We fully support the action planned for Thursday at noon and strongly encourage members within the other councils to receive cultural awareness and support the Black Student Body who, at minimum, just need a space to heal at the moment.
In peace, love, and solidarity,
NPHC of UCLA

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