Many Boston College students accept, inaccurately, that "AHANA" is the organization for minority students without knowing its true meaning or function. Valerie Lewis-Mosely, who helped coin the term in 1979, returned to her alma mater on the evening of Nov. 5th to clarify the term and argue for its continued relevance and use in today's Boston College community.
Lewis-Mosley, who graduated from the School of Nursing and works as a professor of Theology at Seton Hall University, opened the discussion with a blessing to all Christians and non-Christians alike. Much of her following argument was based on Christian theology and the idea of being welcome, loving, and open to all people (especially those at a disadvantage). Led by AHANA Student Leadership Program President Alex Sarabia, Lewis-Mosley spoke of her life at BC during racially charged periods and why the AHANA title should still exist.
During her talk, it was stressed that "AHANA" is an acronym, not a student club or organization. The letters stand for all those who are from or descend from those of the diaspora of Africa, Hispanic Latinos or Latinas, those from the diaspora of Asia, Native Americans, and those who live in the United States of America, as we are all here in order to attend BC. According to Lewis-Mosley, it was created to replace the word “minority” and for “expediency of speech.”
Lewis-Mosley said she was recruited to attend Boston College from New Jersey as the school attempted to make their student body more representative of the country’s actual racial makeup. She gave much credit to the Jesuits, saying that they knew that the right and Christian thing to do would be to make their school open to all.
The change was made when student demonstrators chained themselves to Gasson Hall to protest racist policies and the Boston College administration neither called the police nor had anyone arrested.
The new influx of racial minorities proved to usher in other progressive changes as well, such as the creation of Fenwick Hall, the first coed housing. In addition, the new and widely varied manners of dress led to the dissolution of a conservative dress code and allowed students to better express themselves.
When Ms. Lewis-Mosley entered the School of Nursing, however, she was told by white students that she would not last a week because the course load would be too vigorous for her. This and the pervasive racism that existed throughout campus inspired her to create the AHANA slogan in 1979.
This was all a long time ago, so, reasonably, the question was asked if she still believes that the acronym is necessary. The answer was a resounding yes. She pointed to the cruel and racist comments that were posted all throughout social media when Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American, was crowned Miss America.
Ideally, we would live in a world in which the AHANA acronym could be a way for our campus to appreciate cultures of the world they wouldn’t normally have access to; however, this is not the case. As it stands, AHANA acts as a support system to students and ensures that they are not living in a harmful or oppressive environment.
Ms. Lewis-Mosley caused a bit of a stir when she said that the BC administration may not be in favor of keeping AHANA in place because they are largely white. She argued that if they were more indicative of the true racial makeup of the school and the country as a whole, their response to AHANA would be much more favorable.
To those who argue against keeping AHANA, she suggested that they determine their specific reason for thinking so and go seek out a dialogue with someone who thinks otherwise. Through this, “a conversion in the way you see the world” may take place.
Overall, the atmosphere of the discussion was universally supportive of AHANA and maintaining its position at BC. It remains to be seen whether the administration will be swayed by her arguments that AHANA is about inclusion, not exclusion, as some argue. If the administration is truly trying to phase out the acronym, they will have quite the opponent in Valerie Lewis-Mosley.
Images via Billy Foshay/Gavel Media.