‘Black in America’ panel shares perspective on race, culture


Nancy Peyton

Black United Students President Alexis Tyson and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Matt James host the ‘Black in America’ panel discussion Thursday night in the Memorial Student Center.

The ‘Black in America’ panel provided nearly two hours of discussion and dissemination on issues facing America’s black community Thursday. The collection of five African-American panelists tackled subjects such as stereotypes, racism, appropriation and Black Lives Matter in the Memorial Student Center.

The panel’s participants included Center for African American Students director Shaunte Polk, CAAS staff member Derek Robinson and Black United Students member Heather Thomas, as well as student Christian Davis and Pastor Donte Jackson. The event, organized by BUS, was co-hosted by the organization’s president Alexis Tyson and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Matt James.

The event was one of several that BUS has organized in observance of Black History Month.

“This is the first time we’ve actually done a panel,” Tyson said. “We have had different race and culture conversations, but this is the first time we’ve had panel about strictly black issues in America.”

Tyson said an event such as this holds equal value for students of any race.

“The only time you could see more value in the other,” Tyson said, “is in someone who has never been exposed to a conversation like this, white or black. There could be a black person who has never been exposed to the fact that black people have a sometimes victimization attitude when it comes to society. They might have never heard that before.”

Jackson is a pastor of The First Baptist Church of Huntington, the city’s oldest historically black church.

“Any time that we get to hear a perspective that is different from our own, there’s value in that. There’s growth in that,” Jackson said. “It helps for us to have a more well-rounded perspective on how we treat each other from one day to the next.”

Questions directed to the panel by the hosts often had to do with the identity that comes with being black in America.

“You have to be willing to build a bridge to understanding,” Jackson said. “If everybody is the same, everything will be the same.”

Often the panel discussed attributes of the black community that they felt were being appropriated.

“They will give a new name for the things that African-Americans have been doing for centuries,” Thomas said. “But the moment we do it, it is frowned upon.”

Thomas said white and black people “can do the same exact thing, but there will be a different name for it, and I find that unacceptable. It’s going to be one, or it’s going to be none.”

Tyson said she was very happy with the turnout, adding that “we had really great numbers, so great that we’re going to do this again.”

Austin Creel can be contacted at [email protected]