African-Americans discuss roots and unity at open forum

Kyle Roerink

If driving from the Sahara Desert to England, one wouldn’t be able to tell when white ends and black starts, Steve Michael, vice provost for diversity, said.

More than 60 students attended an open discussion forum where 10 African students and eight African-American students discussed the relationship between the two ethnic groups. Michael said that every person on earth originates from Africa and that it’s “the same blood that binds us all together.”

Francis Dorsey, associate professor of Pan-African Studies, said the confusion between African and African-Americans occurs because of other peoples’ analyses and focus. Instead, he said, Africans and African-Americans should look upon themselves from within and determine their own destiny.

Being an African in the eyes of Jackie Sempore, a language instructor and native of the African country Burkina Faso, is just embracing who she is.

“It is also good to be reminded that we are African in terms of we’re feeling each other,” she said. “What we have in the United States, I appreciate all these things, but I don’t forget where I came from.”

Recognizing her origin is a quality of being African-American, said Ashley Tolliver, president of Black United Students. She said unfortunately her ancestors were moved to America, and the culture in the United States has shaped her ethnicity’s attitudes, values, morals and religion.

“Sometimes as an African-American we have this disconnect with Africa because how often do you learn about Africa?” she said. “The images you see are everybody having dark skin and short hair, and everybody is living in a hut. There are no cities or urban areas. And then you say … ‘That’s not for me.’ In America they don’t always show the positive side.”

LaDon Neal, a student speaker at the forum, said it wasn’t until the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that African-Americans were uplifted and encouraged to take a stand for their rights and were able to create a national identity.

“I wish I could be from Africa,” he said. “I wish I knew where my people came from … We were stripped away from our people; we were stripped away from our families … We had to create a whole new identity.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected].