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  • Black Lives Matter: Students Working Towards a Better Future


    Black Lives Matter: Students Working Towards a Better Future

    Written by Dr. Noel Holton Brathwaite

    Last Thursday afternoon, on June 11, about 100 students, faculty members, and administrative staff met with Farmingdale State College president Dr. John S. Nader to discuss issues related to racial inequality and oppression, and the role that Farmingdale can play in dismantling systemic oppression.

    The Black Lives Matter Town Hall was organized and hosted by Farmingdale’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. Farmingdale rising senior Darrien Hunt, who is the NAACP Farmingdale chapter president, opened up the virtual meeting by addressing how the national and global protests against police brutality and white supremacy are impacting students within the Farmingdale community.

    Hunt quoted famous civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” As many Americans are realizing, ensuring that all voices are heard, especially black voices, is the only way to ensure true racial equity and justice. Hunt explained that there is more to abolishing racism than simply not using the “n-word”. Instead, Hunt implored those at the town hall forum to strive to eliminate racism in their own homes first, and then in their local communities.

    Hunt then invited Farmingdale Associate Professor of Sociology Dr. Angela Jones to read a letter in support of students rallying for change from Farmingdale’s black faculty and staff. Students were then asked to share their experiences with bias and racial insensitivity at Farmingdale. As the town hall moderator, Hunt urged students to follow up their comments with possible solutions and suggestions for change. One student, visual communications major Aasin Thomas spoke about an unpleasant experience he had on campus involving campus police. After Thomas’ remarks, Hunt added that Thomas’ experience wasn’t an isolated one and that other black students had shared similar experiences with him. At that point, Farmingdale president Dr. John. S. Nader spoke up and promised to facilitate a dialogue between the University Police and the students. Nader said, “It is important that we have open communication. I encourage you to be in conversation with the police. We don’t want to just leave it out there. We need to address it.”

    Several other students including 2020 graduate and poet Dimaex, Angelique Roberson, and Ceida Allen all spoke for the need for changes to the academic curriculum to make room for more courses centered on the rich culture, contributions, and history of people of African descent. Not only did the students speak to the need for more culturally diverse courses, they also spoke about the lack of cultural awareness and racial sensitivity that takes place in courses already offered at Farmingdale. For example. Angelique Roberson mentioned that there are sometimes derogatory remarks made in classes that professors often don’t address. She and other students mentioned how in their years at Farmingdale they never had a black professor or any professor of color, and added that many white professors seem uncomfortable and ill-equipped to tackle issues related to systemic racial oppression in their classrooms. Nursing student Elizabeth Smith, who described herself as a white student, spoke up and said that she has witnessed white students showing indifference towards students of color, and a lack of empathy and compassion. She suggested that there be some form of empathy training, particularly for nursing students entering a profession anchored in caring.

    After the students spoke, Hunt proceeded to unveil a list of 10 proposed NAACP resolutions to address the various student concerns. The proposed resolutions ranged from increasing the number of black faculty members and administrators at Farmingdale to promoting black entrepreneurs via Small Business Development Center grants.

    Before student Dimaex closed the town hall forum with a powerful poem, Hunt urged students, faculty members, and administrators who are allies to black students seeking racial justice and equality to be aware of any implicit biases or prejudices that they may have and to educate themselves about historically oppressive systems that exist in the United States and in local communities. He suggested that allies research the following sources:

    The Black Lives Matter Syllabus — http://www.blacklivesmattersyllabus.com;

    Farmingdale’s Anti-Racism Research Guide — https://www.farmingdale.edu/library/research-guides/anti-racism.shtml;

    The books,

    How to Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi — https://www.ibramxkendi.com/how-to-be-an-antiracist-1

    White Fragility by Robin Diangelo — https://www.amazon.com/White-Fragility-People-About-Racism/dp/0807047414

    So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo — https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/so-you-want-to-talk-about-race-ijeoma-oluo/1126365130

    The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander — https://newjimcrow.com/




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