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Winter 2002

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Of roots and rituals

     With African drumming and dancing, a Jewish mezuzah for the doorpost, a Native American “smudge,” a sprinkle of Catholic holy water, and other ritual symbols and offerings, Skidmore’s new Intercultural Center was formally opened this fall in the freshly renovated Case Center.

Dancers lead the way to the new Intercultural Center for its opening celebration in September.

     Coming just four days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the celebration was a bit more subdued than originally planned. But the spirit of the event—which included a panel discussion on living in a culturally diverse world—seemed even more timely and compelling.

     More than a hundred Skidmore and Saratoga community members gathered for the ribbon-cutting, beginning with a drum-led processional up the stairs to the Intercul-tural Center, where Jamienne S. Studley, Skidmore’s president, called the facility “a place in which we can safely talk but not be so careful that we are afraid to speak.”

     Inside the center—a large, comfortable room with big sofas and colorful artworks—Eric Two Wolfs Payne, Skidmore’s new chaplain, smudged the room with sage (“the smell of new life”) and Catholic chaplain Sister Rosemary Sgroi offered a simple blessing: “May the God of all people and natures and of all creation bless this space and all who enter here.” Navira Ali ’04, in an Indian-print head veil, recited and translated the opening of the Quran: “God is all merciful, all compassionate.” She spoke of “not forcing our beliefs on others, but understanding and accepting all religions, all beliefs.” There was even a Yoruba priestess from Schenectady, who passed around salt, for “strength and collective energy,” and sweet potatoes, to symbolize the Intercul-tural Center’s roots: “May they be strong and run deep.”

     Indeed the roots quickly sprouted a full schedule of programs, including regular Wednesday night discussions on racial unity, student club meetings and informal gatherings, and presentations on Islamic religion, Mexican border workers, slavery reparations for African-Americans, Japanese-American issues, and Ghanaian weaving.

     With its large, inviting windows overlooking the campus’s busiest crossroads, the Intercultural Center promises more than a lively calendar of events. “The center offers a visible presence that welcomes and celebrates diverse traditions,” says Patricia Trosclair, assistant dean for multicultural students and the center’s director. “It’s a place where we can meet and learn from each other.” —BAM


© 2001 Skidmore College