One of Seattle University’s newest clubs, the Caribbean and Latin American Student Society (CLASS), is fresh out of their first meeting. Looking to bring a diverse community together through a shared interest in learning about Latin American and Caribbean culture, CLASS welcomes all students.
Tea’ayanna Garvey, a second-year pre-med anthropology major, grew up in Florida, although both of her parents are from Jamaica. Garvey misses experiencing the cultures her community had to offer. She noticed a lack of music and languages from different cultures in Seattle, noting that she felt like a fish out of water. These are the main reasons she was inspired to start CLASS.
“It was almost like I was losing a part of myself,” Garvey said.
This powerful realization gave Garvey the courage to build a new community to combat the feeling of isolation for herself and other students with similar experiences. She knew about a current Latin American-based club on campus called MECHA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan)with members from various countries in Latin America.
“I wanted to make one that also included the Caribbean, since it is so small and often gets overlooked,” Garvey said.
Since the Caribbean was, like many Latin American countries, colonized by Spain, the two cultures have a number of practices and traits in common. Both have overlap in local cuisine, for example, using goya, adobo seasoning and sazón in many of the traditional dishes. Garvey started CLASS to bring together students from both cultures.
Mireya Gomez, a second-year psychology major, joined CLASS to spread awareness about the prevalence of Caribbean and Latin American culture at Seattle U. They intend to create a space where students can connect with others from similar backgrounds or students who wish to learn about the underrepresented culture.
“I believe that CLASS has the ability to show Seattle U what Caribbean and Latin American culture is really about firsthand,” Gomez wrote to The Spectator.
Garvey is eager to see what impact it will have on the community.
“It’s important for anyone getting a liberal arts education to be exposed to other cultures,” Garvey said.
Garvey feels that Seattle U and the Seattle area do not boast a broad swath of diverse cultures and ethnicities. This is something that she looks to change with CLASS.
“I see CLASS becoming something to [show] that even though you’re small, you can make a really powerful impact on campus,” Garvey said.
CLASS intends to connect with established campus associations like the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), the Black Student Union (BSU) and MECHA. She hopes that people will realize how amazing different cultures are and be inspired to learn a new language or travel to new places.
“[Students of color] almost touch every part of Seattle U, and [students] just don’t know it,” Garvey said.
In order to follow through with Garvey’s vision, CLASS will be holding a number of events in the coming months. One idea they hope to make a reality includes bringing a Caribbean carnival, which is a unique traditional festival to campus, while others will include an empanada sale and fundraising with Taste Of The Caribbean.
“It’s really shaking up the campus,” Garvey said.
By working with CLASS, Gomez feels that they have been able to be a leader for their community and create a space for people to engage with others from similar backgrounds.
“I already enjoy being part of CLASS, and being able to talk amongst others who share similar experiences as [me],” Gomez wrote.
Amber Harris, a third-year international studies major, hopes that CLASS will spread awareness of the growing diversity on the Seattle U campus.
“I hope the club can have moments to highlight Caribbean culture that isn’t widespread knowledge in the Seattle area,” Harris said.
Garvey and the other members of CLASS are optimistic about the club’s potential. Between what they have already been able to accomplish and future events, CLASS provides a space for Caribbean and Latin American students, as well as anyone who is curious about those cultures, to connect and share their stories. CLASS meets every other Thursday in the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) lounge on the top floor of the Student Center from 6 pm to 7:30 pm