WSU unveils new memorial aimed to highlight underrepresented populations


Monique Gaines

Armando Minjares, coordinator of student diversity program at Wichita State, is speaking at the launch of Belonging Plaza on April 24, 2021 east of Wiedemann Hall.

Wichita State unveiled a new outdoor pop-up memorial Saturday that is aimed to highlight members of underrepresented populations.

The Belonging Plaza— a collaboration between the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Strategic Communications—  is designed to move around campus and be a resource for student groups to use.

“Our idea is for it to be a tool for programming and memorialize underrepresented trail blazers and we want student groups to really utilize it,” Armando Minjarez, student diversity programs coordinator, said in an interview with The Sunflower.

The conversations to create the Belonging Plaza began in April when Minjarez and Kristin Beale, StratComm coordinator of creative placemaking, decided they wanted the goal of diversity and inclusion on campus to go further.

“We started with Gaypril, the month of april we programmed a lot of lgbt related programs and we wanted to do something around that,” Minjarez said.

The launch of Belonging Plaza on April 24, 2021 east of Wiedemann Hall honoring Kristi Lynn Parker. (monique gaines)

When they decided to use the memorial to highlight a member of the LGBTQ community, they reached out to campus sources to decide who should be highlighted.

“We reached out to the special collections library, we reached out to Jay Price, to see if they had any information they could share or any people,” Minjarez said. “That’s how we ended up with Kristi Parker.”

Wichita State alumni Kristi Parker is the founder and publisher of Liberty Press, the only LGBT focused newspaper in Kansas. Minjarez said her story was what made them decide to recognize her.

“Her contributions were really transformative to the queer community in the state,” Minjarez said.

When they had a person in mind to memorialize, they started having discussions about how exactly they wanted the memorial to look like. That’s when they decided to create a memorial that could highlight different people at different times, not just one person.

“What are other groups that could be a part of this conversation, around belonging? And how can this pop up tool help the larger community of WSU … to feel welcome?” Minjarez said.

After asking these questions, they decided to represent all different underrepresented populations, not just one. This is why they could properly allow everyone on campus to feel welcome.

Campus members who are interested in using the plaza can access a kit that will provide them everything they need. It has information on where the plaza is stored, how it can be moved, what locations the plaza can be on and will also provide Belonging Plaza branded electronic materials, plexiglass plaques and more.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story had a name misspelled. This version reflects the corrections.