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Andrew Thagard | Thursday, February 19, 2004

The chances of finding Josh Towns at a Notre Dame multicultural event are pretty slim. The junior attended Spring Visitation before enrolling at Notre Dame and participated in Black Images, an event showcasing the talent of the University’s black students, his freshman year. Since then, however, Towns has been busy focusing most of his time on an English and PLS double major and juggling Glee Club, marching band and various jobs in student government.Please don’t misunderstand him.Many Notre Dame students, including some minorities, are hesitant to get involved in the multicultural scene on campus. Some students say they prefer to branch out and are fearful that by becoming involved in these activities they could inadvertently define their friendships solely on race. Others find the students involved too cliquish.Towns doesn’t really fall into either of these categories. The Alumni Hall resident, who boasts African and Native American ancestry, appreciates the presence of multicultural venues on campus but says he’s more of a free spirit when it comes to celebrating diversity.”I think the temptation is to associate yourself and act … according to whatever group you judge yourself to act,” he said. “I think diversity is about breaking down those [distinctions].”According to Towns, individuals show their uniqueness by using their talents to the full potential. Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and his contemporaries, for example, focused their attention on producing great music and in doing so they created a musical genre with a distinctly African American flavor.”Through the use of [their talents] they developed something that was essentially black and new,” he said.Likewise, Towns said he tries to use his talents and unique perspective to add flavor to the Notre Dame community, both in and out of the classroom.”My activities are passion-driven,” he explained.In class, he finds his Native American ancestry to be an asset. Towns’ mom is a professional storyteller and she used to relate tales of the Black Foot tribe, from which his family descended, when he was growing up.”I love stories,” he said. “It adds a new perspective to my literature studies and I think I can bring that to the classroom. It’s an element that is not very prevalent in the anthology.”If students wish to promote diversity in a more formal way, the multicultural clubs and events that they host can provide a good opportunity, he said, though he believes some problems exist in the way by which they are promoted.He said, for example, that many events are not interactive enough and emphasize observance rather than participation.”[Notre Dame’s] a dynamic community,” he said. “It’s being presented, it should be a dialogue.”Towns said he is also concerned that multicultural events unintentionally carry a “minorities only” message to a majority of students.”There’s a lot of flyers around that don’t seem to welcome other people,” he said. “There’s no exclusion with activities here, but I think that’s an unwritten rule.”For diversity to thrive at Notre Dame in the true sense, Towns said, multicultural events must be inviting to all students.”In order for diversity to exist,” he said, “everyone needs the opportunity to participate.”