Students gathered in Parents Plaza and on Zoom for the inauguration of the Student Government Association’s (SGA) first Black president, Zaire Carter ‘22, and the incoming executive board and representatives on May 7, 2021.
The idea for the event came from Britney Jara ‘23, while Robin Chodak ‘22, an intern at the Office of Multicultural Life, MC’d the event, which opened with words from President Kathleen Harring.
Harring spoke about how honored she was to be part of “this history-making celebration at Muhlenberg.”
“I know that Zaire will work with all members of student government and the whole student body,” added Harring, who is the College’s first female president. “Zaire, as one first to another, congratulations.”
“I personally forgot what it’s like to be proud of my race, ethnicity and skin.” said Jara, who is SGA’s newly-elected diversity, equity and inclusion chair. “I wanted a celebration to amplify our voices and show the Muhlenberg community how proud we are to be a person of color through the ups and downs.”
“I am extremely emotional because I finally feel heard represented and supported. I cannot wait for change.”
“I’m so beyond glad that this happened,” Jara told the Weekly. “I came up with the idea to have a celebration of People Of Color’s voices less than two weeks ago. Thankfully Zaire, Robin and the rest of the student body helped me make this come true. I am extremely emotional because I finally feel heard represented and supported. I cannot wait for change.”
Following Jara were a series of performances. The Gospel Choir, led by Eric Thompson ‘10, associate director of admissions and coordinator of transfer admissions, performed two songs.
Mustafa Hall ‘23, The Weekly’s op-ed editor, shared a piece entitled “Bathe in the Energy of Here.”
Parents Plaza was silent as his words resonated, “Today is a day in victory for all people of color, but especially Black bodies. But even more so for the Black bodies whose souls have been shredded by white violence.” He continued, “Let us inhale the glory of the present… For even in the harshest and most ravenous fires, the soil is left nourished and well-fed to allow for something sweeter to arise anew.”
Josiah Curet-Denny ‘24 performed a tap-piece, followed by Richeta Cubano ‘24 reading a spoken-word poem that she wrote and Matthew McCray ‘24 singing “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke.
Cubano shared that her piece is “dedicated to my Black and brown kings and queens.” She read, “Oh what a lovely precious dream to be young gifted and Black… Black excellence runs in every single vein you possess…. You are young, gifted and Black. You must begin to tell our young there’s a world waiting for you. Yours is the quest that’s just begun.”
Robin Riley-Casey, director of multicultural life, acknowledged all of the “unsung heroes” and affinity groups who impact campus everyday.
She said, “Thank you Zaire for being willing to step up and be the person that we know that we need today… to move the community forward.”
Brooke Vick, Ph.D., associate provost for faculty and diversity initiatives, explained the importance of Carter’s election, not just because he is the first man of color to be elected president of SGA, but because of who he is and what he has done on campus.
“Zaire has been involved all over campus,” Vick said, discussing his involvement in both the theater and political science departments, as well as with the Men of Color Network and the Office of Multicultural Life. “[This] makes it so much more likely that student government will be a place for inclusion.”
Outgoing vice president of SGA Adam Marcus ‘22 and vice president elect Ben Eber ‘23 spoke following Vick.
“I am looking forward to representing each and every one of you,” said Eber. “I can’t think of a better way to do that than working with Zaire.”
Outgoing president Jordan Soffer ‘21 shared his excitement for Carter, and his certainty that Carter will be successful in his new position
“Zaire is adaptable and willing to take on any challenge,” said Soffer. “He will do great for this College. The future of this College… is about to change and change profoundly.”
The event closed with Carter himself, who was introduced by his best friend and self-proclaimed campaign manager Chodak.
Chodak spoke highly of Carter, describing him as “a guy who always makes sure you have somewhere to go for Thanksgiving… makes sure you have Christmas plans… A guy who no matter how many challenges, how difficult the day is, how difficult the year is, how difficult life is, we’re talking about a guy who always knows how to celebrate, how to have fun.”
“I’m really happy to introduce a genius, a metaphorical billionaire (because he doesn’t believe in capitalism)… but most importantly, my friend.”
“When I was running for president I asked you for your vote. But now as your president, I demand of you your voice.”
Carter offered thanks to his friends and family, and powerful words to the community.
“You shared with me your hopes, you dreams, what kind of community you wanted to be in,” said Carter. “Let me be clear, my intention is to be the president for everyone, regardless of how you voted.”
He announced, “When I was running for president I asked you for your vote. But now as your president, I demand of you your voice.”
Carter told The Weekly, “I am remarkably proud of all of the students who have shown up and shown out, for the times are changing here at Muhlenberg. It’s a new day.”