UF isn’t exactly known for its diversity, but one would expect a bit more from the nation’s eighth best public university. With recognition across the country and students from all over the world, it would make sense that a school of this quality would represent the whole country. Unfortunately, the Gator Nation is not as culturally diverse as one would hope.
One source does reveal UF has an above-average student body composition in terms of racial diversity compared to other schools across the nation. Despite this, the lack of cultural exposure in my freshman year left me unsatisfied and craving more. It’s not hard to find organizations for minority groups, but it’s hard to find the right one for you. I’m not going to talk about big organizations in this article because they already get enough publicity. I want to focus on the lesser known places within the Gainesville community where you can easily grow and develop.
Gainesville actually has a variety of organizations that focus on minority issues and awareness. Take Dream Defenders, for example. It is an activist group based throughout Florida, and it is dedicated to providing individuals with freedoms they believe are unjustly taken from them. The members are primarily African American, but include people of a variety of races who attempt to solve problems across the globe, a major one being the Palestine-Israeli conflict. However, keep in mind Dream Defenders is an activist organization, and you should be cautious about the events you participate in. I, personally, had an amazing experience with the Dream Defenders and even got to attend a music festival in Miami for free.
Community centers are also a great way to get involved with different things in and around Gainesville. The Civic Media Center hosts a variety of events ranging from silent discos to motivational documentaries like Five Broken Cameras, which was hosted by Social Justice for Palestine. Although it isn’t necessarily a community center, the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program is also a good way to understand the history of a community and its people. It gets you involved with communities across the nation and provides you insights that you can’t learn in history books. Plus, you might be able to get out of Gainesville once in a while.
The A. Quinn Jones Museum and Cultural Center delves into African American history within Alachua county. It has events that celebrate historically black areas within Gainesville and even provides tours of the area. The museum also hosts and participates in community seminars where people can learn the problems within the community and how to solve them. It recently hosted an event with F.E.M films that discusses this concept. F.E.M is an organization that teaches and encourages repressed people to express themselves creatively. I highly recommend joining this organization if you are interested in filmmaking, even if you have no previous experience.
Even though this article focuses on minority groups, people absolutely should not be afraid of joining one even if you aren’t part of a minority. The point of these organizations is to bring more awareness to minority groups, not to exclude individuals of the majority. Don’t let the current political climate get to you. We need to be more unified than ever before. I encourage everyone to go out and do something that you might be uncomfortable with, and I guarantee you’ll be surprised by the results.
Zora Viel is a UF journalism sophomore.