Issues of racial and religious discrimination within society were highlighted in a symposium called “Race and Religion in the Americas: New Directions of Thought and Activism,” which was designed to fuel advocacy for diversity within the Hofstra population.
Presented by the Hofstra Cultural Center and the Department of Religion, the discussion featured speakers from diverse backgrounds and student leaders on Wednesday, Oct. 5, in the Hofstra University Cultural Center Theater.
“This whole idea was to have a symposium that would put before us, as a campus community, some more tools and resources for getting at what we find ourselves in as a nation and on campus – conflict about concepts and identities and communities of race and religion,” said Julie Byrne, event organizer and associate professor of religion at Hofstra.
Each speaker offered a new perspective on community activism.
Dr. Sarah Sayeed, senior advisor to the Community Affairs Unit of the City of New York, highlighted accounts of living in New York City while existing within the crossroads of race, Islam and politics; while also dealing with daily Islamophobic oppressions.
Dr. Vincent Lloyd, an accredited author from Villanova University, and Dr. Nazia Kazi, fellow author from Stockton University, also spoke on these issues.
Lloyd analyzed the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement and Kazi detailed her research with Islamic American citizens in regards to political decisions and voting blocks.
Lindsay Gray, a junior dance major, enjoyed the new information the symposium offered about adversity within American society. She said that she believes education is important in bringing an end to the oppression of differing cultures.
“There are a lot of problems in the world with things involving other races and other cultures,” Gray said. “I feel like the only way to solve those is for everyone to be educated, even if it’s not your problem or my problem – it’s somebody’s problem. We need to understand those problems so we can change it.”
Five of Hofstra’s student diversity advocates discussed campus activism. This student panel was composed of Keiyona Williams, president of the Hofstra Black Student Union, Bianca Pickering, chair of the University Senate, Maryam Qureshi, president of the Muslim Student Association, Genesis Rivera, NAACP member and Liliana Solis, secretary of the Campus Feminist Collective.
Every student had their own story to tell; Williams recounted her emotional debate day protest experience with the Black Student Union. Rivera explained how growing up facing adversity inspired her to become an activist. Qureshi emphasized that being young is no obstacle to creating a difference, and Solis explained how easy it is to get involved on campus.
Pickering declared that being an activist doesn’t mean risking your life. “Don’t think being an activist is being at the marches. Don’t think being an activist is going to jail. It’s a part of activism but it doesn’t have to be your part of activism … Everyone can be an activist in their own right, and as long as you make that definition for yourself, you’ll be as powerful as you want to be.”