Luncheon fosters discussion on personal social justice

Bernard Branner, junior applied communications major, speaks at the KSU: True Life Luncheon held at the Kent Student Center Tuesday, Apr. 12, 2016. 

Hana Barkowitz

When Mario Sracic, a Kent State mathematical science graduate student, came out to his parents about his bisexuality, his whole life changed. Disowned and ostracized, he had nowhere or nobody to turn to until he found the Kent State LGBTQ community. 

His story, along with two other students’ stories, celebrated the social justice community and diversity on Kent’s campus Tuesday afternoon at the KSU True Life: It’s My Story luncheon, which was presented by the Residence Services Social Justice, the LGBTQ Student Center, and the Women’s Center.

Sracic says that the most important thing that anybody can do to help somebody going through a similar experience is to simply be there for them.

“Whether you’re LGBTQ or an ally, if you know anybody going through what I went through, you can build a sense of community. I shut down when all of this happened, I withdrew, which is the worst thing I could have done.”

The second speaker, Bernard Branner, a junior applied communications major, spoke on his experience with racial slurs and how they affected him. When he was on an educational program at Miami University as a sophomore in high school, he walked by a fraternity house and heard brothers in the house yelling racially charged names.

Branner noted that this particular experience disinterested him in the idea of college and college life.

“It’s important for students to hear my story because you never really think that the small things you say could deter people from continuing their education or progress in life,” Branner said. “Luckily, I was able to find motivation and pursue my bachelor’s degree.”

After the first two speakers, listeners were instructed to collaborate in discussion with the people around them.

Discussions ranged from how the listeners related to the two speakers to how comfortable, on a scale from one to 10, each attendee felt discussing personal social justice. Some discussion points hit on personal identity and relating to others who may or may not be similar.

Tabetha Maly, an Assistant Hall Director in Residence Services and the one responsible for coordinating the speakers, says that fostering discussion about identity and social justice are vital for college-aged students.

“Students are in a point in their lives where they are exploring different topics, they’re meeting new people, and it’s really important to understand each other,” Maly said.

One line from Sracic’s speech resonated with the luncheon attendees is also a line he says should resonate with the listeners. 

“As LGBTQ individuals and allies, we have an obligation to foster a sense of community and belonging, in an effort to tip the scales back towards a general feeling of love and acceptance, Sracic said. 

Hana Barkowitz is a diversity reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]