Professors start dialogue during BUS open forum

Bo Gemmell

Pan African Studies faculty address issues with about 50 students

Black United Students met in Oscar Ritchie Hall last night for an open forum talk with Pan-African Studies professors. Shaye A. Painter | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Four professors from the Pan African Studies department discussed race, class and other issues at an open forum sponsored by BUS last night.

About 50 audience members listened to the professors’ responses at BUS’s last event of the year, “Real Talk with Pan-African Studies Professors,” in Oscar Ritchie Hall.

One of the Pan-African Studies professors, Mwatabu Okantah, repeatedly reminded the audience that hate is “wasted energy.” Professors Linda Piccirillo-Smith, Christina McVay and Idris Kabir Syed joined Okantah in the discussion.

“Racism in America will stop when white people get sick of it,” Okantah said. “I think that might be what’s happening.”

Okantah also read quotes from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and other historical figures that he said showed racist viewpoints. He said the audience should go beyond blindly accepting the information and do their own independent research.

“It’s criminal to teach you American history and not talk about this,” he said.

Dwayne Yates, public relations chair for BUS, said the professors were carefully chosen because students like them so much.

“Okantah’s just really an interesting person,” Yates said. “A lot of his views on things are very wise.”

Yates said he thought the audience would gain information about the Pan-African Studies department, its courses and the professors who teach them.

“We usually ask for our constituents to speak on our topics at our meetings,” he said. “This meeting is different because it is a panel and it’s an open forum as well.”

Other members of the panel reminded the audience of lesser-known issues.

Piccirillo-Smith said people need to recognize coded messages and subtle racism.

“I try to enhance people’s awareness,” she said. “It’s important to understand that bias does exist.”

McVay said that the department was created “out of a spirit of rebellion.”

“I became convinced a long time ago that black students are really, really fortunate to have this department,” she said.

Yates said BUS will hold a program to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. when classes resume in January. He said the event could include poetry, music and probably a skit.

Contact general assignment reporter Bo Gemmell at [email protected].