Maya Angelou will no longer be speaking at the College of William and Mary next week, Student Assembly president emeritus Chase Koontz ’14 announced in an email to students Thursday afternoon.
“I regret to inform you that, due to illness, Maya Angelou has canceled her speaking engagement at William & Mary next week,” Koontz said the email. “The event will not be rescheduled.”
Koontz added that he extends his sympathy to Angelou.
“I know that many members of the William & Mary and Williamsburg communities were looking forward to hearing from Dr. Angelou. … I know I speak for the entire community in wishing Dr. Angelou a quick recovery,” Koontz said.
Despite the cancellation, Koontz encouraged students to reflect on Angelou’s work, and to participate in the scheduled events of I Am W&M Week, which will take place over the next week.
I Am W&M Week will be a week-long celebration of the diversity on the College’s campus. This year’s slogan is “10 days. 20 events. 1 Tribe.” Former Undersecretary of Multicultural Affairs Shay Jannat ’10 created the event four years ago.
For Secretary of Diversity Dylan Frendt ’14, I Am W&M Week goes beyond a set of festivities purely dedicated to culture. It also includes the values of the College community.
“This year I Am W&M Week is really a celebration of what William and Mary is. … It has an emphasis on groups that are diversity related, culturally and internationally related, but it is also an expression of the values that we hold and things that we work for,” Frendt said.
Undersecretary for Multicultural Affairs and Co-Chair of the World Expo, Teymour Moinzadeh ’14 explained that the event has evolved over the years.
“[I Am W&M Week] has gotten just bigger and included more events and activities,” Moinzadeh said. “When it first happened, I think whenever you do something that big, it’s like a rough draft and you just tweak it every year.”
Highlights for the week include a Pride Festival and Drag Ball that will be held Saturday, April 12, and aims to educate students about the LGBTQ community. That same day, the Diversity department will be putting on events in coordination with the Day for Admitted Students.
Bitch Media, a non-profit feminist media organization, will be leading a talk and seminar concerning the representation of women in media, Monday, April 14. Frendt explained thatthis event is a type of response to the Sigma Chi email, which provoked discussion on campus with regard to rape culture.
“Because a lot of people like to focus on those flashbulb moments — the Sig Chi email, things of that nature — my department and the students we are coordinating with, we very much want to be proactive and start conversations that can prevent those kinds of things from happening,” Frendt said.
To end I Am W&M Week, the Sadler Center will play host to a World Expo Sunday, April 20. The World Expo will highlight the different cultural, ethnic, international and various other groups that make up the College community, Frendt added.
Melody Li ’15, Undersecretary for International Affairs and Co-Chair of the World Expo, said that the Expo will incorporate dance, music, a fashion show, cooking and more.
“The World Expo is really a kind of dynamic activity,” Li said. “Everything will be really coherent, so people can have a really great experience to try out new things.”
Li’s fellow World Expo Co-Chair, Moinzadeh, said he believes that the Expo will allow students to explore these different groups in one setting.
“What is really astonishing is that there hasn’t been a day for, I guess, international students, multicultural groups, religious groups, to kind of showcase their cultures together … but finally you can have it all centralized in one location, on one evening,” Moinzadeh said. “And that way you can see the similarities between groups and experience it more and its more fluid.”
Beyond these events, there will also be more intimate events throughout I Am W&M Week.
Li said she sees I Am W&M Week as a final opportunity for students to celebrate.
“I think it is kind of like a finale of the year,” Li said. “Students want to celebrate, get away from studies. … You are in college and things are just so packed together and the schedule moves so fast, that you don’t realize you are a part of a community that has a lot of different voices and a lot of different people.”
Frendt expressed hope that students will learn about their community during the week.
“I guess I want people to learn something about someone else that they hadn’t learned before,” Frendt said. “And I want people to realize that it is our differences that make us stronger and it’s our differences that make us beautiful.”