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Real Talk Series on Racial Injustice

Haneifah Ahmad, Reporter

After the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, people of all backgrounds are coming together to condemn acts of racial injustice. UNF’s community took the moment to acknowledge this reality. On June 9, The Commission of Diversity and Inclusion (CODI) launched a new virtual series titled REAL TALK. In this series, students, faculty, and staff discuss racial injustice and social change via zoom. In each series, each group voices what changes they would expect from UNF and from our community. Each REAL TALK session will last for an hour and 15 minutes.

At the beginning of this series, a small group of students and alumni came together to talk about what experiences they have gone through either on or off-campus. These experiences that are being discussed by the black student body may open the eyes of students and staff members that may not have experienced this themselves. The discussion brought up a series of topics like, prejudice, systematic racism, discrimination, and dominant culture. Black and brown communities have been facing these issues for years and this series, we begin to discuss that we want and need change. 

“We don’t want to despair over and over again. We just want change, a change that is over 400 years past due,” said Parvez Ahmed, professor of accounting and finance at the Coggin College of Business.

Ahmed read a passage from Martin Luther King Jr., this quote is about making an impact in our space or community and there is no such thing as a convenient time to do so, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season…”

Ahmed says this quote applies to white people and is extended to the black and brown community because Ahmed claims the community has taken its privileges for granted and is now facing the challenge of having been silent for too long.

Ahmed opened the discussion to the students who wanted to talk about their experience. Brittany Baker is a doctoral student with the Brooks College of Health in the physical therapy department. She is originally from south Florida. It was a culture shock when she arrived in Jacksonville, she said,

“I did not realize how southern it was…I am the only black female in my program. It was hard for me to come into this space not knowing how different it was going to be from where I grew up. The realm of [physical therapists] is not diverse either, so I keep floating in this space where I have to speak for the minority because I am the only one there.” 

Although UNF is a predominantly white institution, there are organizations for black and brown students. Kira Fellows has been involved in many organizations on campus, as well as Greek life. Fellows is the former Black Student Union President. She explained how black people are portrayed in sororities and fraternities. “Black people are in the background of their sororities and fraternities until it’s rush week or it’s time to post a picture and then you’re front and center.” Fellows states that black organizations have no problem catering to black people.

Although there are organizations that cater to black and brown students, Fellows finds there is a disconnect with the advisor of the black Greek life organizations. “Even in going through my experience in Greek life and being in a black Greek organization, the advisor who is in charge of our organization on campus is a white male.” 

The REAL TALK series will continue with sessions on Monday, June 15 from 4 to 5:15 p.m. for students and Tuesday, June 16 from 1 to 2:15 p.m. for faculty and staff.

___

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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