By Aaliyah Patel and Tori Pender
Race Relations: A Community Discussion Continued series organized by Rider alumni Jelani Walker and Dalin Hackley, held open community dialogue regarding the current racial climate around the world for students, staff and faculty at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 17. on Zoom.
Supported by the Center of Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), this event intended to discuss the topic of “Racism in America: Where we’ve been, Where we are and Where we’re going.”
Pamela Pruitt, the executive director for CDI states, “Jelani and Dalin had done a teach-in for one of the faculty. When I heard about it, I thought it would be a great way to continue the conversation about race relations.”
Following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and others, attendees shared their thoughts, emotions and suggestions on advocating for equality and inclusivity within local communities. Panelists alumna Shanza Arooji, Ashley Archer, Assistant Professor Cynthia Martinez and senior communication studies major Givanna Troilo generated the discussions.
Hackley said, “To be honest, I think that any opportunity for students to be able to discuss the issues of what is happening in this country is a positive thing. I think there were things that we could have worked on more or done differently, but I am appreciative of those who came, spoke and participated in what was a pretty long event focused on an important conversation.”
Topics such as systemic racism and police brutality centralized the focus of the discussions.
Walker said “A lot of students, up until now, are emotional about how things have been happening in this country. This was a way for the community to come out and discuss what it is that they think is going on and how we can change it.”
Student voices were not heard by the whole group until two hours into the community discussion. When they were, it was through two Zoom breakout sessions.
Kayla McIntrye, a freshman global studies major, was an attendee who felt there was room for improvement on these discussions.
“Ask the students these questions especially when the majority of students in these discussions identify as Black or as a person of color,” McIntrye said.
There was only one student on the board of panelists, Troilo, who is a white woman.
McIntrye stated “It was a normal discussion on that topic but, for me it was the fact that there was only one Black panelist that was answering questions. I understand the importance of allies in this discussion but when you’re talking about [how] you’d never know [what] it’s like to be Black during this time and you give your opinions on this feeling, why not give your platform to those who have experienced these things.”
Attendee Yusef Collins-Bryant, a freshman popular music studies major also echoed similar sentiments.
Collins-Bryant stated, “These conversations need to happen but action also needs to be done.”
According to Data USA, 11.8% of Rider students identify as Black or African American.
“I think trying to identify the message that we wanted to give was the most difficult part … It won’t be overnight that we address something as deep as systemic racism in America,” Hackley said.