Student voices heard in 'Fifty Shades of Black'

Students broke their silence Monday at an event focusing on the struggles and realities the black community faces at Central Michigan University.

“Fifty Shades of Black" was coordinated by the Organization of Black Unity and held at Herrig Hall.

Students were asked a variety of questions at the event, including if they battled with being the only person of their race in a group or class or if there were any additional burdens or stressors students of color face as an underrepresented group on campus.

“We wanted to promote diversity and unity on campus, and we thought this program would be a good way to open it up, not only for African-Americans students but also to other minorities,” said OBU President Jasmine Valentine, a Northville junior.

Students opened up about how they felt uncomfortable because they did not have someone to relate to culturally, while others said college wasn’t a culture shock.

“I thought it was really good,” Pontiac sophomore Brittani Davis said. “I really liked that (turnout) was a diverse amount today, because, most of the time, it’s majority black. So, I really think it was good to hear different people’s perspectives.”

During the discussions, students talked about how they try to incorporate students of different races in social gatherings.

Davis said she would invite some of her white friends with her to programs that might be predominantly black. However, they’ll decide not to go because they feel uncomfortable being the minority.

“I’m a minority everyday going to class,” she said. “I’m one of the one, two, maybe three black people in the class … and that’s an everyday reality for me. So, I feel like sometimes people should just be willing to go outside their comfort zones just to experience different settings.”

CMU has reached out to students of color through programs such as Pathways to Academic Student Success and Multicultural Academic Student Services.

However, Mount Morris junior Dimitri Turner said before CMU can create change in regards to their efforts, the black community has to reach out and support each other first.

“Sometimes, you go around and you can wave at a male or female from another race and they’ll wave back, but once you wave at your fellow black person, they won’t wave back or they won’t give you that time of day," he said. "So, start supporting each other first, and then you get that ball rolling.”

Pontiac junior Marlita Gamble said she notices when students are together, whether it’s at the Student Activity Center or in the classroom, they hang out in groups that seem to be designated by race.

“I feel it’s (somewhat diverse), but, in classrooms, I don’t see it ..." Gamble said.

D’Wayne Jenkins, Multicultural Academic Student Services assistant director, said students of all races need to reach out to each other.

“You have to be able to build relationships with people," Jenkins said. "You have to be able to. Even if you are of a different race or different ethnicity, you should be able to pick up on commonalities in anybody that you come in contact with.”


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