Hofstra’s NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) had intentions of hosting a march on Wednesday Feb. 15 to honor Black History Month in hopes of rallying support for racial acceptance. However, when they did not get the turnout they’d hoped for, the group decided to postpone the march and in its place entertain a discussion with Provost Gail Simmons about how to best fulfill their mission on campus.
Sophomore Genesis Rivera, a political science and sociology major, is a member of the NAACP, and she feels that it is important for the university to get behind the NAACP’s initiative if they want to maintain calling themselves a diverse and accepting community. She said, “The main goal of all of our programs is to acknowledge that there is a problem with racism on campus. There are many here that want to fix the problem but we can’t do that when faculty and students don’t even want to admit there is one.”
The group expressed concern regarding SGA budgets, stating that SGA does not provide adequate funding for educational events that correlate with the NAACP mission. They also indicated that faculty diversity is lacking at Hofstra and stressed the importance of maintaining a diverse staff to enhance the school’s academic effectiveness.
Raven Cordice, a third year television/film major and president of Hofstra’s NAACP, said, “Concerning public safety, we spoke how the student staff abuses their power to the point that many students do not feel comfortable enough to report an incident because it is not certain if it would actually be handled. As we spoke about our concerns, she [Simmons] took notes on her laptop and responded by telling us who to talk to about certain things and that she’ll reach out to faculty as well.”
Proceeding the discussion, a screening of the documentary “13th” was hosted in Breslin Hall by the CCE (Center for Civic Engagement), in collaboration with the NAACP, BSU (Black Student Union), CSA (Caribbean Students Association), HOLA (Hofstra’s Organization of Latin Americans), and the new Center for Race, Cultural and Social Justice as part of CCE’s Civil Rights Series.
Jack Costello, a graduate assistant for CCE finishing his masters in sustainability, said, “Last semester we screened “Do Not Resist,” which is all about the militarization of police, and so that had a huge audience. We wanted to continue these conversations. So much is wrapped around these issues of oppression of race of institutional oppression. We felt that it was something the student body needed to be talking about.”
Reactions to the film varied, but for the most part students were appalled by its content. This includes Ariana Queenan, a second year graduate student studying journalism.
“That was my first time watching the film. As a person of color, I had so much difficulty watching any sort of documentary or film that surrounds this type of racist subject,” Queenan said. “I’m just an emotional person because I am a person of color. I do live this every day. I know it exists, so sometimes it’s just hard for me to see the imagery of how brutal racism can be to people’s daily lives.”
S.M. Rodriguez, an assistant professor of criminology, was asked to speak at the event and to help moderate the discussion with Dr. Jonathon Lightfoot.
“I think it’s a very important piece of work. For students, and for anybody really, it tends to be a mind-blowing introduction to American history that isn’t really spoken about.” Rodriguez said.
Senior public relations and global studies major, Joanna Soares, found the fault to be in the American education system.
“I’m upset that the black community, the Latino community and the white community are unaware of this. This is not common knowledge because news is so designed to be accepted. But these stories are not told. This history is not considered American history and that’s upsetting. It upsets me that black history is put in its own category when America was built on the backs of black men. I think it needs to be common k knowledge. It needs to be part of the school curriculum.”