GCJD brings race discussion to campus

Three days of events focused on confronting racial issues have been brought to campus by the Global Center for Journalism and Democracy.

The center hosted a screening of “Dear White People,” the winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award. The satirical comedy-drama chronicles the relationships between racial groups at the fictional Winchester University, an Ivy League-style institution.

The film began a night of conversation and was followed by a panel discussion featuring students and professors alike.

GCJD Executive Director Kelli Arena said the screening and discussion should get people talking on campus.

Alondra Garza, junior criminal justice major, Keenan Jones, mass communications senior and student body president Spencer Copeland made up the student portion of the panel. The professors on hand included associate professor of history Jeffery Littlejohn, Ph.D., assistant professor of history George Diaz, Ph.D., and associate professor of history Bernadette Pruitt, Ph.D.,

“We want to be provocative,” Arena said. “We want to get students thinking and talking about things that they don’t typically think or talk about. Whether it’s what’s happening on the other side of the world or what’s happening politically or what’s happening right here in Huntsville, there are so many things we just don’t explore as a community, and race is one of them. Clearly, around the nation, we are seeing that this is an important issue, that there are still problems that exist in our society and the more we talk about things, then the more chance we have of actually coming up with solutions.”

The panel briefly touched on civil rights movements other than race, specifically the LGBTQ movement as one of the film’s main characters is gay. Arena said that discussion about rights should encompass all aspects of oneself.

“I think diversity is the umbrella that we should all be operating under,” Arena said. “Whatever that diversity is – whether its age, gender, background, where you grew up, sexual orientation – whatever it is, these are all things that need to be explored, because…the research proves to us that the more diverse a group is, the more productive they are. The more we are exposed to people who are different than us, the more intelligent we become. If this is what the research shows us, then we should be moving forward in that direction, especially at an institution of higher learning.”

Along with the screening of “Dear White People,” the center opened is an exhibition in the Lowman Student Center Atrium yesterday. The gallery continues today and features photographs, statements and video installations dealing with race.

GCJD also sponsored a graffiti artist Wiley Robertson to paint a mural representing unity for SHSU students Tuesday.

Arena said the events, above all, should keep the discussion going.

“Keep talking about the issue,” Arena said. “Keep exploring issues. Don’t buy in to this thing about ‘don’t talk about religion, don’t talk about politics. It’s impolite.’ Be impolite. This is the time for you to explore and learn as much as you can.”

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