A week ago, I was excited to attend a campus event up at my alma mater. I was hopeful that I would see some faculty and staff, as well as maybe a few alumni I knew.
In the end, I sat by myself. As such, I was an easy target for a few interesting roasts.
As awkward as this situation appears, the whole experience has had me thinking about why I was the only non-student who attended - and why I did so just to stay involved.
Each year, the Malcolm X Institute (MXI) at Wabash holds a dinner for its Red Velvet event. It has also hosted a comedy show the past few years. Some light research shows that jazz and poetry were highlighted previously to celebrate Black History Month.
"The idea is to honor the black arts, that’s its foundation," former MXI President Reggie Steele '12 told The Bachelor prior to Red Velvet back in February of 2012.
I can't for the life of me remember any of the comedians' names, and only grasped that they had some regional prominence on the radio. This is besides the point, though.
I was repeatedly singled out because I was sitting alone. One of the comedians made fun of my bald head, while another joked that I was going to "steal" somebody's girlfriend. When the last comedian asked what I was doing there, I clapped back that I thought he would be funny. The best way to counter these humors was to play along.
I want it to be clear that I wasn't the only white person who attended this year's Red Velvet (or was made fun of, for that matter). The MXI has invited students from all backgrounds and ethnicities into its brotherhood, as well as to its different events.
My best friend from Wabash was very involved in the MXI, and I believe that many of our robust late-night conversations were extensions of the dialogues they encourage.
Why didn't I get mad or upset? Because I anticipated what came. I was singled out by default, and I accepted it as such. I appreciated one of the comics personally thanking me afterward for being a good sport. She was just happy to have an engaging audience.
However, this goes into where I think the crux of this post lies, that of being involved.
There couldn't have been more than 50 people who showed up for the dinner and the show. I was the only "adult," while the rest were MXI students and their dates or other acquaintances. I found this troubling as an alum who regularly travels back to campus.
While the group's overtly crude style wasn't to my taste (I'm drawn to that of Don Rickles and Johnny Carson), I was principally disappointed by the absence of Wabash faculty and administration. Despite any hiccups or miscommunications, Red Velvet was still an open event that these students put work into organizing and setting up.
I believe that attending last Saturday's Red Velvet encouraged thought on my part about being there. It was important for me to make the effort, and - if any of them will read this post - I hope the MXI brothers I know and don't know recognize that.
I enjoy going back, and I always hope to interact. This is what it's all about for me.
The value of being involved remains consistent with my work here at the Banner Graphic, and the same applies just as well to the close-knit community Wabash touts.
These are just my observations and reflections. I'm not discounting that a professor or an alumnus could've had other pressing commitments and just couldn't make it out.
If I were to provide feedback about Red Velvet, it would be for the MXI to find an act that could be more inclusive. The show should invite a wider audience with different sensibilities and tastes. Still, I am not about to tell them how they should go about it.
That is their responsibility, and I have the confidence that they can work it through.