On Tuesday night, Feb. 28, the Student Center Pit welcomed Rowan students of all backgrounds to learn about the hard truths of oppression and colonialism in the world. Dozens of students gathered to educate themselves on these significant issues from the discussion panel that featured various Rowan organizations. The panel began at 7 p.m. lasting all the way till 10 p.m, but even as the night progressed, students stayed seated for each discussion.
The panel, titled, “The Roots of Oppression: Confronting Systemic Racism,” featured leaders and members of Rowan clubs such as Women of Color Alliance (WOCA), Men of Color Alliance (MOCA), Rowan Progressives, Rowan African Student Association (ASA), Rowan’s Black Student Union (BSU), Rowan’s NAACP, Rowan Black Cultural League (BCL), and the Rowan United Latino Association (ULA). The discussion panel was also moderated by Dante Harrison, a Rowan alumni.
As the panel began, Dante Harrison introduced each panelist as they took their seats and announced the first half of the presentation, colonization. The presentation provided attendees with a well-thought-out definition of colonization and who it affects as a whole. Each slide presented with a question that would be dedicated specifically to the panelists and or the audience. The first question that initiated the discussion was why society should decolonize.
The rules of the discussion stated that this would not be a debate, but more of a respectful conversation where every person would hear each other out. This first question and the second, “how do people see the effects of colonization / systematic racism in your day-to-day lives?” prompted the topic of how the media shapes those racist mindsets, and molds society by portraying “the standard.” The effects of colonization have created the popularization of European beauty standards, with examples, given by one of the panelists, can go as far as the results of what one looks up on Google that has to do with beauty.
Durwood Pinkett, the Vice President of Rowan Progressives, shined a light on how more of these events should be advertised more to the Rowan population.
“I would love to see more people in the audience, but at the end of the day, the majority of the audience was a BIPOC community. We go to a predominantly white institution (PWI) and that specific student body is not hearing these conversations. We’re going to have more racialized incidents of bias and so on, we just need to have events like this more often,” Pinkett said.
The second half of the discussion talked about decolonization and featured some questions like, “is it possible to dismantle colonialism under the current system?” A lot of the panelists offered suggestions such as starting the conversation with those that need to be educated on these topics, whereas some believed that dismantling could take dozens of years, due to the normalization of the unjust system.
Esteban Prince, who is on the executive board of MOCA, expressed the goals he hopes are accomplished for this discussion panel.
“The goal for this event is basically to bring people together to really have this discussion because I find that a lot of black events are very much in an echo chamber where we are aware of the issues we want, but we’re just talking about the same thing over and over again,” said Prince. “Part of the reason I collabed on this was because I think it is a good way to come together and bring new perspectives. We have to get out of that small shell and really interact with the rest of Rowan.”
The moderator for this event, Rowan Alumni, Dante Harrison, also talked about his hopes for this panel.
“I hope everybody gets a chance to talk. If I see the conversation is going and everybody is engaged. Even though we went over the time a tiny bit, I wanted everybody to have a chance to say their certain pieces,” Harrison said.
The panel ended with every leader’s closing thoughts and advice for Rowan students, to get involved, become active listeners and lastly, join organizations that advocate for change in society in hopes of one-day demolishing colonialism and oppression.
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