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'What Now?' event provides avenue for African-American community to voice concerns


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Rashaud Walker speaks to the audience, Nov. 15 in the UC Auditorium on the campus of Central Michigan University. Josh Barnhart | Freelance Photographer

A racial incident at Real Food on Campus in the Towers Residence Hall last week helped ignite the fuel behind a conversation about racial issues in the Bovee University Center Auditorium on Tuesday.

Detroit junior Jacqueline Ramsey, president of Have Your Point Expressed (HYPE), said HYPE secretary Myles McGuire confronted a white male student in the RFoC last week after he said a racial slur to a group of African-American women discussing Donald Trump.

The incident was reported to D'Wayne Jenkins, an assistant director in Multicultural Academic Student Services. He sensed a need for unity of campus, and worked to create a program where students could express themselves and concerns in a safe space.

He united HYPE, the NAACP CMU Chapter, the Organization for Black Community (OBU) the Black Greek community for a program where students could express themselves and their concerns in a safe space.

The coalition came up with "What Now?", a platform where students and faculty responded to questions posed by group leaders.

Much of Tuesday's dialogue revolved around president-elect Donald Trump and his views toward minority communities.

“Trump being elected affects so many different minority groups in so many different ways and this is just the first step in producing a solution of how we’re going to deal with that individually," Ramsey said.

The first question highlighted the fears of students regarding the election. Some students said they want Trump to do a good job and this is an opportunity for the black community to do more research and be educated. 

“Sometimes their voice kind of gets minimized, so providing them a safe space to voice their opinions in a judgment-free zone, to kind of just get out their emotions, I think is very important," Jenkins said.

Other questions included reactions to Trump's campaign to the presidency. One student said he thought about not going to class the day following the election, which was Nov. 9, but added the idea the system expects him not to forced him to go.

Another common theme was the idea of fear and how the community can overcome obstacles.

Jenkins then asked those in attendance for solutions. Port Huron sophomore Mateo Savedra pitched a program revolved around race to be presented at Leadership Safari or freshman orientation in August, similar to Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates' "No Zebras, No Excuses."

After the discussion, Savedra and a group of attendees met put the plan into action. 

Savedra said he was not only happy his voice was heard, but also knowing he was able to start something.

“In so many circles of life, nobody looks to us (African-Americans) for any kind of input," he said. "When we’re given a chance or an avenue to kind of get our voices out there, we need to jump on it.”

Jessika Kennedy, NAACP CMU Chapter Volunteer Chair, said she hopes Tuesday's discussion will evolve to impact other minority groups on campus.

“I wish more of our community came out but I also want to encourage our community to support (caucuses such as LGBT and Latino)," Kennedy said. "If we stay divided among communities, change will not happen on our campus.”

Ramsey said Trump's election has caused minority students to walk around with a "defeated mindset." After listening to concerns of students and speaking to some after the event, she said people are not defeated, but challenged.

“Now, the question and the conversations aren’t (feeling) defeated," Ramsey said. "It’s more so (feeling) empowered to do something about the social climate that is not a thing because of Donald Trump’s election.”

Savedra said he postponed working on a paper and was dragged to the event by his girlfriend. He said his biggest takeaway from the discussion was people are frustrated and want their voice heard.

He hopes people heard his voice.

"The election was a result of people feeling their voices are not being heard but I think tonight was also a result of people feeling like they’re not being heard and they want to make a change," he said. "I think they finally came to the point in their lives where they feel like they can’t sit in the wayside anymore. They have to get up and do something.”

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About Evan Sasiela

Evan Sasiela is the University Editor at Central Michigan Life and a senior at Central Michigan ...

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