Marian University students, faculty, and staff were recently invited to “chime in,” and explore the challenging topic of racism, on Monday, January 25 in the Marian University Theatre. The event was attended by more than 90 students.
“I was ecstatic with the results of our event,” said Marah Leonfils, president of Union for Black Identity Club, (UBI) which initiated and implemented this opportunity. “I was touched. I am moved. ‘Chime In’ became so much more than we had envisioned. It was a great surprise and we only hope to continue with this momentum.”
The evening began with a panel of six courageous students, Jeffrey Mayo, Jonathan Tinjero, Destiny Patterson, Paula Angarita, Maurice Woodard and Racia Murry representing a diverse cross section of our student body. Each panelist discussed their personal experiences with power, privilege, stereotype, diversity, prejudice, discrimination or racism.
“Chime In” began as the UBI club began planning for their spring semester events. “We felt a need to have a dialogue about issues we felt continuously seep into communities of color. We also realized that oftentimes, the micro-aggressions persons of color face on campus or off, are often unbeknownst to the person perpetrating them,” said Leonfils.
Monday evening was a beginning; an opportunity to learn about the injustices all people face and to dialogue about how interconnected these experiences are. UBI executive board, including Thailand Burris, Erica Tindall, Imran Jalloh, Toni Thompson, Destiny Patterson, and Lateefah Birks, wanted people to leave with a better understanding of a differing group of people and how they might be better capable of helping to end hateful racial rhetoric across the board.
Under the direction of staff advisor Tonya Hall, director of 21st Century Scholars and Professors George LaMaster, Ph.D., director of forensics, and Cathi Cornelious, Ed.D, professor of education, student small group facilitators were trained to engage others in a potentially sensitive subject. They followed dialogue guidelines such as: use “I” statements, don’t place blame on individuals, blame ideologies, speak your discomfort, actively listen to the speaker, treat everyone in the dialogue as equals, be open minded, withhold judgment, and serve for assumptions and look for common ground.
UBI expressed gratitude for the support of their advisor, Tonya Hall, Director of the 21st Century Scholars program. “UBI is very fortunate to have an advisor that shares similar experiences, has worked with black student organizations, and is very knowledgeable about the issues we aren’t taught within our studies. We value her opinion and are often in communication with her about our thoughts and events,” said Leonfils. Hall is also working with a committee of faculty and staff to increase multicultural programming at Marian University.
How will UBI continue this vital conversation? “We are in conversation with staff and faculty members, including Cathi Cornelius and Tonya Hall, in hopes of hosting a few more events this semester. Since we are still in the planning stages, I invite anyone who’d like to know more information to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tonya Hall at email@example.com or to check our flyers out. Once the events are finalized, we’ll spread the word,” said Leonfils.