CMSS encourages cultural conversation


by Mira Dover


The room in the SSC where Eva Maria Lewis, a CMSS guest speaker, spoke about her life as an Afro-Indigenous woman, was packed full of students. Some managed to secure seats, but the rest leaned on walls, sat cross-legged on the floor or stood in the back of the room watching on tip-toes. That kind of turn-out on a Tuesday night (Nov. 8, 2022) was a pleasant surprise to Kwyn Townsend Riley, CMSS’s Coordinator for Cultural and Affinity Spaces.

According to CMSS’s website, Eva Maria Lewis is “an Afro Indigenous, self-titled socio-cultural architect, award-winning human rights advocate, organizer, writer, and artist from the South Side of Chicago.” Lewis’s presentation was grounded in “empowerment and Native American ancestry” and was part of CMSS’s Diversity Education Empowerment Program (DEEP) Impact.

“I have known Eva Maria for years — since she was in high school,” says Townsend Riley. “She is only 23. Eva Maria represents a young person reconnecting with their indigenous roots. I wanted someone that students can relate to.” Lewis is also the Executive Director of the Free Root Operation, an organization that “intercepts poverty induced gun violence by investing in communities.”

During the event, Townsend Riley interviewed Lewis about her identity and culture as an Afro-Indigenous woman. At the end, students asked questions of Lewis, such as “What does it mean to be indigenous?” or “What is your favorite part of being indigenous?” Townsend Riley says that she most hopes that “students know that Native Americans are not erased or extinct and that students who identify as Afro-Indigenous also exist.”

To learn more about the Free Root Operation, go to
To learn more about CMSS’s DEEP Impact Dialogues, go to

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Published: Thursday, February 2, 2023

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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