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College education, discrimination discussed during Black History Month panel

The more things change, the more they stay the same for African-American students in the U.S. educational system, an education panel told students Wednesday.

Students filled the Charles V. Park Library auditorium wall to wall, participating in the panel discussion, “African Americans in Education.”

Sponsored by the Black Graduate Student Association, The Organization for Black Unity, and the Multicultural Academic Student Services office, the panel discussed the struggles and progress of African-Americans in an educational setting.

Members of the panel featured University Recreation Assistant Vice President Stan Shingles, success coach Christina Jenkins, multicultural advisor and Detroit senior Demetrius McCloud, and multicultural advisor and Saginaw senior Sparkle Jackson.

“We’ve come a long way when it comes to education,” Jenkins said. “However, there are still a lot of changes that needs to be made.”

African-Americans are facing struggles and a lack of motivation during class and activities, Shingles said.

“We still live in a highly segregated world, it’s just a bit more sophisticated now,” he said. “Everything is still the same.”

McCloud said being comfortable with one’s race is something that has been a reason for struggle.

“We struggle because we are comfortable,”  he said. “We don’t care enough to educate ourselves further anymore.”

Black History Month is a time for celebration as well as understanding.

Jenkins said Black History Month has been easily overlooked and misunderstood.

“There is so much that is missed during Black History Month,” Jenkins said. “We don’t see anything about black inventors or people in the movement, we only hear about Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. There is a lot of information missing when teaching about black history.”

Remembering to embrace one’s diversity is important when it comes to success, and environment shouldn’t limit the amount of success a student can have.

Shingles highly encouraged students to further their education.

“It’s not where you come from, but what you decide to do with what you have,” Shingles said. “You can be anything you want to be, and the power of education will support that. Everyone in this room has the capability of being the next George Ross.”

Students felt encouraged and enlightened after listening to the discussion.

“I thought the panel was really good,” said Crystal Hutson, a Chicago senior. “It definitely showed there is a lot of empowerment for African-Americans.”

Diversifying the members of the panel was something that Hutson appreciated, which included multicultural advisors as well.

“I like how they had professionals as well as students speak,” Hutson said. “It was great to see many different opinions and viewpoints on the panel.”

Jasmine Valentine, president of The Organization for Black Unity, said the panel discussion was a huge success based on both the number of spectators and the amount of questions raised.

“The panel turned out exactly how we hoped it would,” the Northville senior said. “The audience and panel engaged in a great discussion.”

Valentine said she learned a lot, while also being inspired to further her education career.

“I learned that it’s important not to victimize oneself,” Valentine said. “You just have to take motivation from your struggles and stay dedicated.”

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