African/African American group on campus works for positivity in cultural identity
News | Sarah Boadwine
With the goal of opening Bethel’s eyes to the importance of cultural identity, Moya is a group for African or African American students working to grow together as individuals with the commonality of a similar cultural background, according to group leader Love Washington.
The goal is for students to embrace their identity, first as being made in the image of God and then as being African or African American. According to Washington, Moya is a safe place for students to talk about social issues and life. It helps bring together a minority population on campus and give people a place to connect with each other. The group’s name, Moya, is a South African Bantu word that means ‘spirit.’
Washington’s goal for the year is to promote positivity within the community itself and to give Africans/African Americans a place to come together as a community for devotions, prayer, discussion, activities and events. She also aims to give these students a place to develop positive thoughts about who they are.
“A lot of things that you hear about the black community in the media is negative. They see us as ignorant and whatnot,” Washington said. “People need positive images to draw to within their specific culture and if they don’t have that they sometimes draw to other things that don’t represent them.”
Washington firmly believes that it is hard for people to steer away from these negative views and discover who they are if they don’t have anyone to look up to.
February is black history month, and Moya has multiple events planned. During the rest of the year, the group is still hard at work creating a resource for all students seeking support or for anyone who has an interest in African/African American life.
Washington said Moya has faced many struggles at Bethel since its inception.
“Moya struggles with the fact that we don’t feel that the Bethel community as a whole cares about cultural identity, and so it’s a struggle to inform people when they don’t have open ears for it,” Washington said. “As Christians, we are called to be the hands and feet of God, and all parts are created for a purpose.”
Washington strongly encourages the Bethel community to get on board with raising awareness of cultural identity. She stressed that God made every group of people for a reason and that every person has a purpose.
“We all play a certain role, and we can’t eliminate one group because we don’t think they are necessary,” Washington said. “At the end of the day, God created that group for a certain purpose.”
Moya is a subgroup under United Cultures of Bethel. According to Moya member Victoria Featherstone, Moya has helped her to get over culture shock and to feel comfortable in a community where she is a minority.
“Having a community of people that provide a healthy space to let out emotions and deal with the issues surrounding cultural differences has been great,” Featherstone said. “I am from Maryland, and before coming to Bethel, I didn’t have an experience where I was the minority.”
Featherstone stressed that even though Moya and UCB are facilitated for specific groups of people, others are welcome. She believes that the best way to learn about different cultures is to talk to those who are from other cultures.
“Moya is a safe space to share and discuss topics dealing with culture,” Featherstone said. “It has been a blessing to me and helped me to see the depth of the beauty of who I am as an African American.”