NEW ORLEANS, LA - Juan LaFonta, an attorney and alumni of the University of New Orleans, held a grand opening of the Juan LaFonta Multicultural Lounge on Tuesday, August 24.
Inspired by LaFonta's struggles during his college years, the area is designed to build a supportive community for all students. The space features a multipurpose room, conference room, lounge, interfaith prayer and meditation space, study room, and an office for the Diversity Engagement Center.
“So my first semester at Bienville Hall I was kind of fighting one battle trying to stay housed and was also fighting a battle with people who didn’t accept me for who I was,” LaFonta said.
“It was people who were not from here that basically didn’t get the whole Creole thing … you don’t necessarily look like what, supposedly, a Black person is supposed to look like in the United States, so I used to get a lot of heat.”
As LaFonta was homeless before enrolling at UNO and faced difficulty fitting in among his Black friends, he appreciated how UNO faculty and staff offered support and help for his financial and social problems.
“Where would I be if those people hadn’t created safe spaces for me? Where would that guy be who ran away from home when he was 15, who was sleeping in a trap house in Carrolton,” LaFonta asked emotionally. “There were safe spaces here at this University that got me out.”
The Associate Dean for Diversity and Student Affairs Desirée Anderson said that Juan LaFonta Multicultural Lounge will be the place for students of all backgrounds to reflect and find resources to grow as an individual and as a community. The new space also supports the University's Strategic Plan core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
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