Outspoken guest speaker draws crowd

Learning disability psychologist Umar Johnson, known both for his outspoken views on black oppression and polarizing comments on the gay and feminist communities, received questions and criticism before and after he spoke at the KIVA on Monday night.

His appearance was organized by the Kent State student group L.O.C.K.S., which hoped to focus on Johnson’s history as a proponent of pan-africanism rather than his inflammatory remarks.

A concerned coalition of students attempting to raise awareness of Johnson’s presence and its implications on the integrity and views of the university gathered outside the KIVA to demonstrate. Students lined the walkway that led into the KIVA shortly before 7 p.m., when Johnson was set to begin his speech. Several held signs proclaiming opposition to his stance against the gay community.

“We feel that the controversial opinions and values of Dr. Umar Johnson contradict the values (of) Kent State and the campus culture that we try and build here,” said Drew Canfield, vice president of PRIDE! Kent. “I don’t anticipate things getting out of hand. We’re just here to show our support for an inclusive campus culture and our opinion against the values and beliefs of … Johnson.”


Jordin Manning, a freshman zoology major and part of the LGBTQ community, asked Johnson about the issues surrounding the treatment of women.

“With the Black Lives Matter movement arising, how do you feel about the three sapphic women founders being invalidated as well as the women in the movement in terms of white supremacy and misogyny?” Manning asked.

“I do not support same sex relationships,” Johnson said. “However, I do not hate anyone who practices it.”

Johnson continued after applause from the audience.

“In my spiritual, cosmological principles and in my study of African culture, there is almost, there is none, absolutely none, evidence of any traditional African society that ever condoned, accepted or allowed the open practice of same sex relationships,” he said.

Johnson said that no one would be able to find an African society that allowed the practice of a same-sex relationship, repeatedly saying that he does not hate anyone and that he is free to disagree with the lifestyles of others.

“My problem with the LGBTQ movement is they have created an atmosphere where if you disagree with their lifestyle, you are automatically branded as a hater and destroyer of them,” he said.

Johnson discussed the issues he sees with the Black Lives Matter movement and his views on it, saying he has not personally met the founders of the movement, but he is concerned with the way they are running it.

“There is an intentional movement to confuse the black struggle with the gay struggle and because the founders of Black Lives Matter are of an alternative lifestyle, it is my hope, and I do not know this, it is my hope that they do not allow themselves in any way shape or form to be used as that origin that seeks to come into the black community and inject LGBT(Q) forcefully in an effort to confuse young people about what exactly black power movement actually means,” Johnson said. “Homosexuals were never systematically dehumanized, if they were, show me where. Homosexuals will never be systematically dehumanized. They were never ever considered not to be people. Their struggle is not ours.”

At the end of Johnson’s response, Manning said he did not answer her question.

“He answered what I wanted to know about his stand on homophobic comments, but he didn’t exactly answer my questions. It just seemed like he was making a bunch of disclaimers on what his views weren’t and I just wanted my question answered,” she said.

Cameron Gorman is a general assignment reporter, contact her at [email protected]. Itzzy Leon is a diversity reporter, contact her at [email protected]. Nicholas Garisto is a diversity reporter, contact him at [email protected]