The Sigma Gamma Rho sorority is sponsoring a prolific Houston-based political activist for its Black History Month event to be held on Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the Lowman Student Center Theatre.
Quanell X, the national spokesperson for the New Black Panthers organization, will be the keynote speaker for the sorority’s event, titled “Where Are We in 2003?”
Sophomore Khisten Dowdy, treasurer and secretary for Sigma Gamma Rho, said the organization is primarily a community service organization, with the motto “Greater Service, Greater Progress.”
Dowdy said the organization had originally intended to have a different format for the program, but changed it once Quanell X committed to the event.
“We planned for a panel discussion of politicians and community activists, so students could come up and ask questions,” Dowdy said. “We originally tried to contact a representative from (Quanell X’s) organization, and when he heard he decided to come himself.”
Quanell X is an activist from Houston and is also the leader of the New Black Muslim Movement. Quanell X is best known for leading political protests, such as one outside the George R. Brown Convention Center during the Republican National Convention in 2000. He was also in Huntsville protesting the execution of Gary Graham the same year.
Dowdy said Quanell X will deliver a speech about social issues such as Affirmative Action and reparations, and after speaking will take part in a question and answer period. She said the goal of the event is to enlighten students about the issues, and not to insight any negative feelings or outbursts during the speech. Dowdy said there would be heavy security at the event with zero tolerance policy toward any unlawful actions on any sides.
“We’re all about educating, we’re not interested in bringing someone down here to start trouble,” Dowdy said. “Basically we want to educate the minds of students of all races on the campus, of what’s going on culturally within our society.”
In order to raise the $750 speaking fee, the sorority sought an un-funded organization grant from the Student Government Association. In a vote held at the Feb. 11 SGA meeting, the senate voted 11-10 in favor of funding the extra money needed to bring X to SHSU. SGA President Helena Banks cast the deciding vote to break a tie.
Sophomore SGA Senator Jason Horn from the College of Arts and Sciences voted against appropriating the student service funds for Quanell X’s visit.
“He’s a very avowed racist, anti-white and anti-Semite, and he bashes everything,” Horn said.
Horn said the funds are supposed to be earmarked for events that service all students on campus, and that he does not think the money should be spent on Quanell X’s visit.
“I don’t believe that someone that’s constantly spewing hatred on national television should be given student service fees to appear on campus,” Horn said.
Horn added that following a visit to his hometown of Livingston, Quanell X left an unfavorable mark on the community.
“When he came, he stirred up long submerged racial tensions that lasted for quite a while after his departure,” he said.
SGA Treasurer senior Donovan Pitre voted in favor of granting the funds to bring Quanell X to campus.
“When the petition from Sigma Gamma Rho was placed before me with Affirmative Action and reparations as topics of discussion, it was in my opinion that this would be something different people can benefit from, because the issues he’d be speaking of would concern all Americans,” Pitre said.
Pitre said that while Quanell X’s thoughts on race may make him a controversial speaker, he is certain that Quanell X’s visit will not be an aggressive one.
“It can be an issue, but after talking to a representative from his organization, Quanell is not coming to start any trouble or invoke any riots, he’s just coming to speak on the issues that he thinks needs to be addressed,” Pitre said.
Pitre added that while he is an African-American, this did not play a part in his decision to vote for the SGA funding Quanell X’s visit.
“If the issue was for a representative of the Ku Klux Klan to come and speak, I would still have to consider it, and I don’t want people to misunderstand that I voted because I’m an African-American, but because I feel these are issues all people need to sit down and discuss,” he said.
Pitre said the SGA is only paying the speaking fee, and that the sorority would pay for additional expenses.
Dowdy said she wants the university to listen to the issues Quanell X addresses, and that the students who attend will leave with a new perspective on the topics.
“I am praying that this demonstration will be very beneficial to the student body, and they walk away with a better understanding of the issues,” said Dowdy.