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Volunteer Opportunities at the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center

by Ange-Marie Hancock


The Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center serves as a locus for a variety of cultural, historical and social programming at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With this mission, the Center administers several programs which require the commitment of volunteers for their success. We encourage you to join us as a volunteer; come have a hand in the growth of a site which facilitates the academic exploration and appreciation of African and African American culture.

Four specific programs which thrive with volunteer support are Communiversity, Cross Cultural Communications Institute, Sauti Mpya and Underground Expressions. Each targets students and members of the community with different interests - education, improved race relations, creative writing and cultural performance. Below are a few brief words about each program.

Communiversity was founded in 1992, and has grown from a single Saturday School component for children between the ages of eight and twelve to a four-pronged operation designed and staffed completely by volunteers. Communiversity seeks to bridge the gap between the University of North Carolina and the Chapel Hill / Carrboro community by establishing mentor relationship between UNC students and students in the Chapel Hill / Carrboro school system. Communiversity now consists of Saturday School, Teen Outreach, Literacy, and Homework Assistance programs.

The Saturday School engages younger children by immersing them in a curriculum of African and African American cultural history. The co-directors, Diara Andrews, Kenaysha Gaddy and Alisha Richmond seek to create an environment in which students can develop discipline, leadership and team-building skills.

Lessie Anderson and Rena Olds share some of the same goals with Teen Outreach, which aids the development of area youth by strengthening the support system around them - parents, school administrators and college students work together to develop educational and cultural enrichment opportunities. The Teen Outreach volunteers also emphasize career opportunities and life skills by facilitating seminars by graduate and professional students and local employers.

The Literacy and Homework Assistance Programs provide direct one-on-one assistance to young students needing special help in coursework. Student volunteers are matched with a single student, with whom they meet twice per week. Creative lesson plans are used to reinforce the students' self-esteem in these programs. Odessa Montgomery and Melissa Rasberry oversee the Literacy Program, while Shaunda Ferrell and Tabitha Saunders administer the Homework Assistance Program.

The Cross-Cultural Communications Institute (CCCI), founded in 1990, also focuses on improving Town-Gown relations. CCCI intends, through practically oriented programs, to provide participants with concrete directions for working through both real and perceived differences among all cultures. This year CCCI will recruit undergraduate students who are committed to helping bridge the gap of communications cross cultural and racial barriers. These volunteers, after participating in intensive training, will coordinate a series of dialogue groups about various topics, meeting regularly for six weeks. The first interest meeting for those who wish to hear more about CCCI is scheduled for Wednesday, September 3, 1997 at 7 P.M. in the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center.

Sauti Mpya, pronounced, "Sah-oo-tee um-pee-ya," is the literary magazine of the Center, founded in 1992 by Renee Alexander, then an undergraduate at UNC. Swahili for "new voice," Sauti Mpya is the first African American literary journal to be published UNC's campus and highlights the African American experience through original literary and artistic work. This year, Artist in Residence Olafunke Moses will be the primary contact for submissions and those seeking information about joining the Sauti staff. All positions will be available and an initial interest meeting will be held at the start of September.

In conjunction with the written words of Sauti, last year the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center inaugurated an open mic performance series entitled, "Underground Expressions." This addition to the Center's cultural repertoire encourages performance artists to bring the oral traditions of Africa to the new millenium. All forms of expression are welcome, including but not limited to poetry, music, dramatic readings, dance and performance art. Those who want to step up to the mic should contact the Center to sign up the week prior to Underground Expressions. Program assistant Rafiyah Mustafa oversees this vibrant atmosphere twice each semester, and volunteers for publicity, performances, and themes are welcome. The first Underground Expressions is timed to directly precede Black Alumni Weekend. Feel free to arrive at the weekend one night early - Thursday, October 9, 1997 - to hear our newest griots develop their creative and performative talents!

Volunteers are always needed for individual events as well as programs. Last year the Center needed the support of committed folks for the BCC Ambassadors and the Blacks in the Diaspora Student Academic Conference, to name just two. Please contact the Center with any new ideas or suggestions for programs and come in ready to roll up your sleeves. The Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center is a resource and treasure for all members of the community, and it is up to us to build it to ever-increasing heights!!!


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