“Come celebrate with me that every day something has tried to kill me and has failed,” Chandra Guinn, director of Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke University, said to open up the first national cultural centers’ meeting for college campuses around the country on June 3.
The virtual town hall was convened because of the worldwide protests that have been ongoing as a result of the murder of George Floyd on May 25.
More than 60 participants tuned into the Zoom meeting made up of students, faculty and more. Brandi Stone, the director of the University of New Mexico’s African American Student Services, was one of the center speakers at the event.
Under moderator Sean Palmer and co-convener Guinn, the other center speakers included Dr. Aris Hall, Carlos Wiley, Anne Edwards and Renee Thomas, representing various colleges around the United States. Additional speakers included John Robinson-Miller IV, Marjorie Fuller, Michael Gerard Mason and Dr. Fred Hord.
Each speaker was assigned a topic in regard to the role that college culture centers play in political activism. Topics such as inclusion, Black student-professor relationships, collective impact and more were discussed.
Stone partnered up with Hall to talk about the importance of mental health and healing during challenging times.
“Can you heal when you’re in the middle of the trauma? Sometimes healing takes place afterward, and it’s okay to sit in it and just name what you’re feeling,” Stone said.
Stone brought up racial battle fatigue, or the negative impact of consistent racism that Black students face on a historically white-dominated campus.
“Healing doesn’t stop just because you’re not on our campuses,” Hall said.
Mason said students that don’t feel represented and are not as active in the Black community are more likely to develop symptoms of trauma, according to a study done at the University of Cincinnati.
“Not everyone has the opportunity to breathe freely, and I think it’s important to ground ourselves in this space,” Thomas said.
Wiley brought up the controversial topic of the role of police organizations around the country in response to the protests. He said the best approach to working together is getting to know people as individuals. His university, Penn State, has incorporated local police into their cultural center with various events, like meet and greets.
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“They have to get beyond your color. You have to get beyond their uniform,” Wiley said. “We have created this idea that the police is a part of the community, even the Black community.”
Edwards compiled a ten-step list that described exactly how to protest.
“Some of the best organizing in the world actually starts on college campuses,” Fuller said.
The group emphasized that even after the media popularity dies down, the issue still needs to be resolved. Thomas said that voting is one of the most effective political actions people can take.
“When the hashtag stops trending, we have to continue to live our truth,” Hall said.
Near the end of the meeting, the floor opened up for a question and answer section. Students brought up the difficulties for the Black community as LGBTQ+, non-traditional and military students and being a part of a minority group on campus.
“Students, we send you back to your communities to do this great work,” Palmer said, ending the conference.
Megan Gleason is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716