The Swarthmore Community does a wonderful job of creating safe spaces for students to explore, celebrate, and learn about their culture, race, and ethnicity. With so many mono-racial, monocultural, and mono-ethnic groups on campus, students who don’t quite fit into only one group are left feeling out of place or wondering how they fit into these groups.
Multi is a group dedicated to giving students who identify as Multi a safe place to celebrate and share their mixed identities and experiences with other students. Multi includes students who identify as multicultural, multiracial, and multi-ethnic.
Multi isn’t new to Swarthmore’s community: the group existed about 4 years ago on campus but unfortunately its leadership dissolved after students graduated. Through his connections with alum in his work with Mountain Justice , Chris Malafronti ‘18 learned of the group’s previous existence and recognized his own passion for the community and need for its revival on campus. Chris felt very strongly about bringing Multi back to campus because of how he personally identifies and the prospect of having a safe space to explore what his own mixed identity means to him.
“It seemed like an amazing group and something that I would want to work on bringing back,” Chris recalled enthusiastically.
As he reached out to friends and other members of the community, he found that he was not alone in his desire to have a place to explore his own mixed identity. While working on Mountain justice before starting his work with Multi, pictures were taken saying “Another [blank] sitting in for Divestment”, Chris Malafronti wrote adoptee on his, which took Casey Simon-Plumb ‘18 by surprise.
“It was just this moment where I didn’t really think I would meet other adopted kids, or if I have, I haven’t noted it because it’s not something that’s super apparent, and so all of a sudden I was having this incredible conversation with someone who had similar experiences, something that wasn’t talked about, that’s not apparent and I think that’s what Multi is about,” Simon-Plumb said.
In order to make the group most closely fit the needs of the student body, Chris, Casey, and Diondra Straiton ‘16 came together to rebuild Multi on campus. They wanted to make it a safe space that also met the needs of all the students who identify as multi on campus. They hit the ground running during the first semester to get Multi back on its feet while incorporating community feedback.
“We really put our heads together at the beginning of last semester, we were like, let’s have an open meeting, let’s go over the Multi bill of rights, let’s think about having dinners, talk about doing buddy pairs, and think about the organization that we want and come up with a mission statement,” Malafronti said, elaborating on their activity during the fall semester.
During the fall semester the group wanted to reach out to the community and present a clear picture of Multi’s goals and intentions on campus as a group open to all students who identify as multi. On November 16th, with the help of Swarthmore professors and alumni, the group members of Multi created a panel whose aim was to discuss what it is like to be a member of the Swarthmore community who identifies as multi. Many students found the panel to be valuable and insightful.
“The multi panel was amazing. The panel was mostly faculty members and they were so open and casual yet so introspective and articulate about their multi experiences. I walk away from multi meetings and events like that just so satisfied and amped up about all these intertwining stories and human experiences,” Nathalie Baer Chan ‘19.
In addition to having a panel, Multi hosted a mixer to create a fun space for people to meet new friends and get to know each other and was open to students whether or not they belonged to the group.
Simon-Plumb also shared a list of things that members of the the club would like to do and is looking forward to working on them this coming semester.
“We want to do social events in terms of alumni dinners, we also want to bring speakers, we really want the club to be dynamic enough to serve whatever purpose that the people in the group want,” said Simon-Plumb.
As the group continues to grow during this coming semester there is a lot to look forward to. Multi will continue to work towards bringing students together in pursuit of solidarity, self-exploration and building a strong community that celebrates people’s differences as much as their commonalities.