NJIT wraps up Black History Month with an unusual three-dimensional interactive art installation, celebrating diversity and created by a group of more than a dozen diverse architecture students of Latino, Asian and African American descent.
“Witness the Legacy” features more than a dozen, tall white vertical, one-foot-square nylon towers. Each tower represents a major date in civil rights history and is ornamented by a photo and printed story, describing an historic event and its significance. A black, highly visible, tape grid, dating from 1954-1968, highlights the floor beneath. The exhibit is open for public viewing through Friday, Feb. 27, 2009.
“We wanted people to walk through this timeline and experience what it was like to be there during this time period,” said Jose Camacho, a senior in the New Jersey School of Architecture + Design. Camacho, of South Brunswick, numbered among the student designers leading the project. He and four other friends who also worked on the project belong to the NJIT chapter of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda, Fraternity, Inc. which aims to unit men in brotherhood to serve the Latino community. The organization believes in a diverse membership, a commitment to academic excellence and a proactive vision towards raising awareness about the Latino culture and history.
“Creating the exhibit helped us to understand the struggles of African Americans trying to earn their rights during the civil rights movement,” said Adam Valenzuela, of Ridgefield Park, another fraternity brother and project leader. “We felt it would help the campus community, if we could communicate a better understanding of what it means to struggle. Most of us don’t look into or know as much about history as we should.”
The installation, conceived of and built by students like Camacho and Valenzuela, was assembled over the past three weeks by the students who worked nonstop.
A conference in Washington, DC, last October sponsored by the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) inspired the effort. “NOMAS held this competition and asked participants to design a memorial for the civil rights movement,” explained. “Our idea was to create a time-line that would run through the building.” Other leaders were Jackie Lam, of Marlboro, president of NJIT’s NOMAS chapter; Danny Rivera, Newark, fraternity president; Jennifer Hiraldo, of Paterson.
Unfortunately, the NJIT group didn’t win the competition. But the group liked its own idea and design so much that when they returned to campus, they started showing it around. Eventually they obtained about $700 in funding from the NJIT Campus Center Diversity Program and Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) to enable them to build it. NOMAS also offered help with the design. Valenzuela and four other participants are members of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda, Fraternity, Inc. at NJIT. During winter break more than a dozen more students worked on completing the exhibit.
All students are enrolled in NJIT’s EOP. This program provides educational opportunities and improves educational outcomes for populations traditionally underrepresented in mathematics, the natural sciences, engineering, computer and information science, business, architecture, engineering technology, and in the professions related to these fields. At NJIT, EOP students find enthusiastic administrators and faculty who help to make participation in the program especially rewarding.
Other student workers included Brian Lee of Burlington; Louis Rodriquez of Clifton; Jose Camacho of Dayton; Greg Bassiely of Freehold; and Jose Alvarez of Jersey City. Other participants were Steven Folks of Monmouth, Joel Okpala of Manhattan, and David Solano, of Newark.
Still other participants were Steven Santos of North Arlington, Ely Duran of Passaic, Earnie Peralta and Ashton Quinton, both of Paterson. Cynthia Momtalvan, of Rahway, Elizabeth Bramwell, of Staten Island and Joe Henriquez of Trenton, also helped.
“I think that we must be proud of our past before we can continue into the future,” said Valenzuela.