Mixing current events and responses to questions collected from students, Odessa College faculty and staff talked about their own experiences and observations as part of a Black History Month event titled “Let’s Talk About It; Keep it 100.”
The “keep it 100” part means keeping it real. Held in the Wood Math and Science Building, the discussion was facilitated by Michaela Anang, a College2Career coach at OC. Panelists were Student Success Coach William Council, Executive Director of Student Learning Resources Denise Perdue and Director of Student Life Urisonya Flunder.
Council said Black History Month means understanding where you come from in this country and getting exposed to pieces of history that are not taught in the classroom or in textbooks.
Perdue said it’s important to recognize what her forefathers were doing and ask herself what she is doing today. She said African-Americans were the first population to come into a country during adverse conditions and they survived and did well.
Flunder said Wednesday the month is a platform where discussions can be held and information shared. She added that she wishes Black History Month wasn’t the one of the only times this happens, but the reality is that many times it won’t be talked about, discussed or debated.
“Any opportunity we have, whether it’s African-Americans or Native Americans — all these different groups — there should be some equity in what is being taught. That’s why you have to use months and certain days” as a teaching tool, Flunder said.
She added that history is largely obtained from people with a sense of power and privilege.
Perdue said she still has to battle all the time and stories of how she ran into discrimination when she was taking master’s courses and doing her dissertation.
She said she didn’t grow up in the South and her parents shielded her from racism. She went to private school, but reality hit when she and her family visited family in Louisiana and it was extremely painful.
“It was like being back in the Flintstones,” Perdue said.
Returning to where she grew up in East Texas, Flunder said she had a similar experience where those entrenched attitudes were still in force. Growing up, she played basketball.
“When I was in school, there were towns we couldn’t go into without a police escort,” Flunder said.
She recalled that the team couldn’t stay in town and eat; they had to leave right away.
Perdue said education gives people choices, but African-Americans are still denied housing and employment.
Council said race can’t be ignored, but neither can culture.
“When I meet someone for the first time, I’m meeting everyone that came before them and their perspective,” he said. “… We’re not all the same.”
Perdue said the faculty needs to bring awareness to students about current issues and make it relevant to them. Students also need to be taught how to search for relevant information.