By: Roberto Hodge
News Content Editor
What is the current state of being black in America?
Is it that blacks have to alter what they say or do just to blend or appease the masses? Or is it blacks have to be vigilant in how they represent themselves to the world? Black students at Eastern chewed over those thoughts at the State of the Black Union Saturday.
The open discussion was held by the Africana Studies Student Association (SANKOFA) in efforts to bring to the forefront, issues that affect African American students, at Eastern Illinois University.
ASSA President Brandy D. Woods kicked off the meeting with a discussion about the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the Confederate South in 1863.
“They attempted to shackle not only our bodies, but our minds,” said Woods.
Woods said slavery is behind blacks and no longer exists blatantly, but she argued that the issues associated with slavery still exists in modern society. However, in covert forms of institutionalized racism, racial profiling, and mass incarcerations, identifies with slavery like an elephant in the room.
“In many ways, we are still enslaved,” said Woods.
She said lynching has taken on a modern form for African-Americans along with a new Jim Crow, by showing the examples of lynching by recent widely-known black deaths in the media. Black slayings that hit media such as Sean Bell, Oscar Grant III, whose life and death was made into a film, Fruitvale Station, last February’s Trayvon Martin, and most recent, Renisha McBride.
Woods expressed blacks also need to be held accountable for slaying some of their own people, Joseph Coleman, Derrion Albert, and Hadiya Pendleton were some of the deaths she cited.
“We are contributing to our own demise,” said Woods.
She ended her introduction stating the premise of the meeting is to reflect on where blacks have been and were they’re going as a people.
“If we forget about the extraordinary shoulders in which we stand, then we have given too much power to the people who oppress us,” said Woods.
Graduate student Victor Jones gave his personal take on the state of the black union by saying everything starts with black men.
He said men are supposed to be leaders and that plays an important role in the establishment of black families. Jones explained by having education a open dialogue where blacks can speak on issues affecting them are ways to help combat the situation.
Jones said ” if a black child has both parents, their more likely to succeed in schools.” He said in order for that to happen, that blacks need to respect on another.
“It’s hard to respect one another when we don’t respect ourselves, when we’ve never seen anyone respect our mothers or if we’ve never seen our fathers,” said Jones.
Woods said she felt that blacks need to be responsible with how they act, she said when blacks understand who they are, they develop a better sense of self-respect; however, blacks need to be vigilant.
Graduate student Sarah Porter-Liddell said blacks should take a page from the Native Americans.
Part way though the meeting, a man, who sat patiently next to Porter-Liddell by the name of Jeff McCoy rose his hand to speak on the matter of blacks.
He started his speech with saying that blacks tend to look at the glamorous things in life. McCoy said blacks tend to push their children to be models or football players instead of doctors and lawyers, which isn’t bad he admitted, but he felt as if blacks have lost sight of what’s important.
He raised the question of, “What entices us to be better people?”
Woods’ view was that blacks tend to do what they know and what they see, she gave the explanation of a man rapping while living in a poor neighborhood, he makes it out of the “hood” and starts a better life for himself.
“That is my ticket out, that’s what I know,” said Woods.
Senior Chemistry major Marquita Batiest complimented Woods’ claim by speaking about the current state of black women.
She said the world is being exposed to a new type of woman, (video vixens), the younger generation of girls are following her because their not seeing that powerful business woman model.
“In reality, baby girl doesn’t have any money, she’s just an extra,” said Batiest.
Porter-Liddell stated one of the current issues facing blacks now, is that parents are coddling their children to the point of being fearful of allowing them to be independent.
Woods said that blacks need to not worry about what the mainstream thinks black should be, she said blacks need to create an identity for themselves.
“We need to develop the fearlessness that our ancestors had,” said Woods.