Black student organizations to unite, discuss current issues

Moody-Ramirez O By Sergio Legorreta

In an effort by the university’s black student organizations to build connections during a time of national and local racial conflict, a community forum discussing race and politics will take place next week.

The forum titled “No Justice No Peace?” is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 17 in Marrs McLean Science Building room 101. Topics of discussion will include recent issues such as police brutality in Ferguson, Mo.

Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, assistant professor and faculty adviser to Baylor’s National Association of Black Journalists, will be one of the panel members.

She also wrote the book “Black and Mainstream Press’ Framing of Racial Profiling: A Historical Perspective.”

“A big component of the panel is how media covers criminal stories regarding different races, classes and culture,” Moody-Ramirez said. “Even wealthy minorities receive different coverage.”

Other issues of discussion at the forum include arrest and incarceration rates based on race and whether the journalism at Ferguson was professional or sensationalized.

This forum is just the latest event highlighting the black student community’s move toward strengthening their connection. Six new Welcome Week events for freshmen and upperclassmen alike took place this semester to celebrate black culture.

The events included a black student orientation, a church picnic and a tailgating event. The title chosen to represent the events, Harambee, is symbolic of unison, as it means “all pull together” in Swahili.

N’kima Russell, director of the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir, attended the black student orientation and said she encouraged other students to branch out.

“Harambee is an opportunity for black culture at Baylor to make connections,” Russell said.

The orientation featured a panel of organizers who spoke about issues including academic and social life concerns and community involvement.

To help students get involved in the community, voter registration cards were handed out during orientation and a sign-in sheet allowed attendees to sign up for community newsletters.

Rowlett junior Erin Gaddis, Texas NAACP president for the Youth and College Division, spoke at the orientation and helped organize Harambee. She said the idea for Harambee grew out an event called the Black State of the Union, which was organized April 2 in response to intercultural conflict.

“There were racist incidents brought to attention,” Gaddis said. “There was a lot of tension. A lot of people got hurt.”

One such incident happened the same night as the Black State of the Union. Racist remarks were made on Yik Yak, a mobile phone application that lets users communicate anonymously in a small radius. After one user suggested that Baylor needed more diversity, a slew of racist comments followed.

Gaddis said Harambee was organized to build a community and avoid conflicts seen last year.

“People often get disappointed since events at Baylor don’t always cater to the black student community,” Gaddis said.

Waco senior Jewel Udenwagu, president of the African Student Association, attended Harambee and said the event and movement by black students was an opportunity to shine a positive light where negativity once existed.
“We want to show there’s unity and positivity in the black community,” Udenwagu said.