In the outside court in between the Student Success Center (SSC) and the Grace Street Parking Deck, construction workers have been laying the groundwork for a new monument on JMU’s campus.
DeAndrae Powell, assistant director of Inter-Cultural Greek Council (ICGC) and Center for Multicultural Student Services (CMSS), said “The Yard,” the name for this project, is going to commemorate historically Black, Latinx and Asian fraternities and their involvement with the JMU community. The Yard will feature plots dedicated to nine historically Black organizations, two historically Asian organizations and three historically Latinx organizations with a statue to memorialize each.
Tyler Jones is a senior international affairs major and the vice president of the ICGC. To him, The Yard embodies something much greater than just a physical plot of land. The ICGC recently put on an event called “The Yard Show” to highlight members of multicultural organizations on campus and teach members more about their own organizations.
“The Yard is physical, but it is also metaphorical,” Jones said. “Us and ourselves represent The Yard.”
Powell wasn’t able to disclose the cost of the project at this time, but, he said he believes the project is a rightful use of university funding. Some of the multicultural organizations showcased are over 100 years old, and each organization has a history of fighting toward social justice, inclusion, equity, women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights.
“Some may view it as a waste of money, but representation is important,” Powell said. “If we want to continue fostering a campus where we have students of color, students from multiple different intersections and identities feeling comfortable on this campus, we should at least be able to provide them with a space where you can visually see it.”
Jones said that while living on campus, before joining his fraternity, he’d often see Greek Row as a physical representation of an organization being chartered at JMU and serving the community. However, he didn’t see this representation for the multicultural Greek organizations that he said also do much for the community.
“For years, this has been asked for by students, dating back to the 1990s,” Powell said. “[The Interfraternity Council] and Panhellenic [Council] have Greek Row and other representations — students have been asking for there to be some kind of physical representation for our culturally based fraternities and sororities as well.”
Powell said CMSS hopes to educate the campus on the significance and history of the plots on The Yard and how to honor these plots properly. Powell said those who aren’t a member or invited by a member of the organizations shouldn’t sit on the plot out of respect for the organization.
Kevin Jordan, a senior business management major, serves as the president of the ICGC. Jordan said that while plans to construct The Yard have been in progress for a while, they’ve never made a step as momentous as this.
“We’re all extremely excited,” Jordan said. “Having our construction done in a spot where everyone can see, right in front of the Student Success Center, is very valuable to us.”
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