Summit highlights the “Complexities of Color”
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 22:10
Senior and president of the Cultural Programming Advisory Board N’Kosi Oates said while the symposium was several hours long, the Complexities of Color summit only just began to touch on issues centering around race in America.
“Although the event was three hours long, I think we really just skimmed the surface, and it goes back to the title of the event—the Complexities of Color,” Oates said. “In three hours, we really just began to talk about the issues, and it shows how race is complicated and that to truly understand and make some progress, more than one conversation is needed.”
This conversation was brought to the university Saturday at Mitchell Hall and featured a keynote address from associate professor of education at Teachers College at Columbia University, Marc Lamont Hill.
The keynote was followed by a question-and-answer session with a panel including Africana studies professor at Drexel University Yaba Blay, President’s Diversity Initiative postdoctoral fellow Armando Lara-Millán and Philadelphia attorney Teleicia Rose Esquire. President and CEO of Ankh Renaissance Corporation Donald Morton moderated the panel.
In his keynote, Lamont Hill talked about the need for discussions about race and about the importance of remembering instances in American history that are tempting to forget, such as lynchings, water hosing and beatings, he said.
He said Martin Luther King Jr. called for America to “listen to itself” and its own ideals of democracy set forth in the constitution. He said the struggle of being African in America is getting America to listen to itself so it can fulfill its democratic promise.
“After we get America to listen to itself, we have to maneuver through this messiness of racism with a sense of history,” Hill said.
Following Lamont Hill’s address, Morton opened the panel up for discussion, reminding attendees to tweet along using the hashtag #colorcomplex2013. Morton also called for the conversation to translate into creating a better world.
“How can we turn this conversation into making the world into something a little more fair, a little more just and a little more loving?” Morton said.
The discussion began with the topic of the George Zimmerman acquittal, a highly publicized case in which Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, fatally shot black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who Zimmerman allegedly suspected was armed.
Martin was not armed, and his death sparked a nationwide response challenging the verdict. In April, the university’s Black Graduate Student Association, Black Student Union, Occupy UD, Alpha Phi Alpha and Phi Beta Sigma hosted a Walk and Rally for Justice, Peace and Equality, inviting people to “join our movement in solidarity with the many victims of murder, hate crimes and racial profiling,” according to the Facebook page for the event.
The panel also took questions about how to keep the conversation about the complexities of color going and how to bring it to the everyday level.
In response to a question about making efforts to emphasize black culture on campus, Blay said it is important to celebrate black culture all year round and to use the right resources to make the changes students want to see.
“I think that oftentimes students watch things happen on campus and talk amongst themselves about it, not thinking about the right people in power and the right administrators to bring that conversation to their campus,” Blay said. “[…] I think students don’t understand the power that you actually have on college campuses.”
The event was spearheaded by Ankh Renaissance Corporation and supported by the Center for Black Culture. The Black Student Union, Cultural Programming Advisory Board, Multicultural Greek Congress, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Black Graduate Student Association, Center for Diversity Studies, Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Black American Studies department also supported the event.
Senior and president of the Black Student Union Binta Bah said she feels the issues and conversations black students bring up are not significant to the students who are around the university. She said she had additional questions she would have liked the panelists to address.
“A question I had was, ‘How do we get students who aren’t black engaged in these conversations?’” Bah said. “How do we get people to understand that this is important?”
Oates said he was pleased with the turnout, but he would have liked to see some more diversity among attendees at the event.
“It was a good crowd, and I just want people to realize, although it’s an important and relevant topic for us students here at UD, or just as a citizen in the U.S., I also believe that although [Hill] is talking about race, it is really beneficial for everyone to understand—literally—the complexities of one’s racial identity, and I really believe that it’s not just for one population,” he said. “I believe that it’s for the masses of people, and I believe that it’s a conversation that beckons for diversity and for a diverse audience to be there and thus leads to beneficial outcomes.”