The McRae-Zellner Project

The Diversity Program has established a new club for Covenant’s African American community, called the McRae-Zellner Project, in response to one student’s vision.

The McRae-Zellner Project, named after the first male and female black Covenant graduates, held its first event during Black History Month in February. Students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered at the Kirk on February 21 for the fledgling club’s first all-campus event, Black History Night.

At Black History Night, students read poetry, played live music, and learned about African American history and culture. Together, all were able to celebrate that heritage.

Last semester, junior Berto Dryden met with Associate Dean of Students Sarah Ocando to discuss a Bagpipe story he had recently written about then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. During the meeting, Dryden shared his vision for the African American community at Covenant with Ocando. Ocando told him that she had been thinking and praying along the same lines. 

Student Development actively seeks to provide space for, celebration of, and education about the many cultures represented on campus through the Diversity Program. When Ocando was a student, she says, an African American Fellowship (AAF) existed on campus, but since she became coordinator of the Diversity Program, no group has existed specifically to support Covenant’s African American community.

Through Dryden’s meeting with Ocando, however, the McRae-Zellner Project was conceived. Its mission is to support Covenant’s African American community and serve the Chattanooga community.

The new club provides a space for conversation, education, and celebration of African American culture through weekly meetings, at which Covenant’s African American community comes together to support one another. “Even though we come from different backgrounds, we understand one another,” says Dryden, who sees the McRae-Zellner Project as a way for Covenant students who face similar experiences to find fellowship and support.

The McRae-Zellner Project also supports the Chattanooga community through service projects, which Dryden says aim to reconcile joy with service. Community service is a good thing, Dryden says, and shouldn’t have negative connotations. Rather than going to classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the club went down the mountain to serve the community through the One Thing service project.

Dryden and Ocando hope that the McRae-Zellner Project continues to grow and flourish in the future. This could look like involving Covenant’s campus in more community service, in campus-wide Martin Luther King Jr. Day events, or in panel discussions.