The Salt Lake Community College Black Student Union held a panel discussion Friday to address the incidents that occurred during the Black History Month poetry slam on Feb. 4.
No More Silence: A BSU Panel Discussion began with a prayer and reading of an original poem before the BSU Advisor Glory Johnson-Stanton addressed the in-person and virtual audience. She introduced the panelists, asking that they be identified by their first names or titles only, before addressing the circumstances that led to the public discussion.
“This was no mistake. This was no accident,” Johnson-Stanton said, acknowledging the poetry slam had been targeted because of the agitators’ hatred for Black students and students of color. “They were sending us a message of white supremacy, bigotry and bullying … They tried to intimidate us, weaken us and stop us.”
The poetry slam, open to SLCC and the community at large, was meant to be a space for creative expression and celebration. Participants gathered in person and via a virtual Zoom stream. As BSU president, Jaycee, made his remarks about the history of Black History Month, those with ill intentions interrupted the stream.
“There was a picture of Hitler and a Black man dancing to the N-word on a loop,” Jaycee said regarding the content that disrupted the event. “It was racist remarks, white supremacy and the N-word.”
The panel discussion provided a safe platform and space for students of the SLCC Black community and the BSU to be heard regarding the disruption.
“I was angry,” said BSU vice president, Beringo. “Someone sat behind their computer anonymously and decided to bomb an event without a care in the world for those who attended the event, planned the event.”
The panel also fielded questions submitted via an online form earlier in the week. As panelists provided their perspectives, they offered a reminder that none of them are spokespeople for the entire Black community and that each individual voice is valid and important.
Questions ranged from feelings about the specific incident to ways that SLCC and its faculty and staff can better show up for Black students to ways white allies can do better and be better for their Black colleagues and friends.
“Training needs to be intentional,” Beringo said. “Racism has changed the way it manifests over the eyes. We need to be intentional about the training we give our faculty, staff and admin to help everyone, especially our Black students.”
In addition to training, panelists say Black counselors and teachers need to be more abundant in the college, classrooms need to see more diversity and inclusion, and, most importantly, those in positions of authority need to listen and be more trustworthy.
“I am tired of you asking. I have already explained what you need to do,” BSU Events Chair Shari-Fa said. “If another event like this has to occur, I hope there’s no more, ‘What can I do, and how can I help you?’ I hope there’s more, ‘Where do I need to be?’”
To those who feel like SLCC’s Black students are exaggerating these events or their feelings about them, Jaycee said, “To us, the little things pile on … Until they walk in a Black person’s shoes, which they never will, they will never understand the harm that these instances cause us.”
He also said steps SLCC has taken toward solutions and change that make him feel like there are allies among them, such as Black Lives Matter signs, the Black Lives Matter paver and the new Clifton G. Sanders library that includes African American literature.
“Hopefully, we will have a staircase worth of steps built off the ones that we have right now,” Jaycee said.
The event closed with words of thanks and praise for the panelists and those in attendance.
“The fact that you are all here today, if you consider yourself an ally, then we appreciate that,” Jaycee said. “I would like everyone to remember that we are making Black history every day, not just during Black History Month. As Barack Obama stated, ‘We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change we seek.’”
Click below to watch No More Silence: A BSU Panel Discussion.