Screenshot of the Coffee and Community virtual event, pictured is Ashley McMillan Ph.D. PN Photo/Jay Locklear.
The Native American community at UNCP gathered on WebEx to chat about the semester on Oct. 21. The event, called Coffee and Community, was set up by Leslie Locklear Ph.D., the coordinator of the First Americans’ Teacher Education Program and member of the Lumbee and Waccamaw Siouan tribes.
This informal environment introduced some Native American faculty and staff on campus as everyone took a break from the unique semester. After the WebEx call, $5 was put onto the students’ Bravecard so they may purchase a cup of coffee.
Coming together in an event like this can be important for the community.
“I think the most important reason is because culturally as Native people we are communal, and relationship based. A lot of us are struggling and I believe that social and mental exhaustion bleeds into our work or our academics,” said Locklear. Due to the pandemic, students cannot build relationships with other Native Americans on campus, and Coffee and Community is a way to help build those relationships.
Locklear did not start Coffee and Community because of COVID-19. The inspiration came after Locklear attended Native Strong, the Native American orientation program, last year. After realizing that the students she worked with had events to attend in a more formal setting, she decided to create this event to continue to connect with the students but in a more informal way. She went on Facebook and asked for donations to help pay for coffee and received over $500.
The support from both Native American and non-Native American people was so strong that people showed up to the event to donate more money. Faculty and staff saw the importance of this event and offered to help provide funds. Ashley McMillan PhD., the American Indian Liaison to the Chancellor, and Lawrence Locklear PhD., the Director of the Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity, both reached out to find funding.
Coffee and Community has helped Native American people on campus. Chandler Allred, a sophomore and member of the Skaroreh Katenuaka tribe, participated in the event.
“Of course the money that they put into your account is good, but also the ability to get on and talk about the problems you’re having this semester and all the Native faculty and resources that you get to meet is valuable information for all Native students,” said Allred.
As this event is newer, there is room for improvement. Chandler said that he would like for there to be an opportunity for the students to have input. Allowing students to talk about their problems not only related to school, but in life is something he says will be helpful. Leslie Locklear hopes to have this event back in person, and have it be more inclusive for non-traditional students who may not attend in the middle of the day.
Coffee and Community is something that Locklear plans to continue with the Native American community’s support at UNCP.