RESPECT: Parkside’s effort to combat racial ignorance

Wednesday, 1 February 2012, marked the start of national Black History Month. The University of Wisconsin-Parkside was no exception in hosting grand kickoff celebrations featuring diverse artistic talent and inspirational words showcasing African Americans’ past, struggles, and hopes. Dr. James Kinchen Jr, professor of music and director of choral activities, introduced the event’s theme “Living Through Our Voices” with a speech how this month was a true testament recognizing the many contributions that African Americans have given throughout history.

“This is not just a museum of our past…this month is a dedication for us to continue to lift our voices into the future.”

Poetry written by our own UW-Parkside students was read, a variety of inspirational songs were performed, and a beautifully choreographed dance from the Chaos Dance troupe seemed to highlight the event, showcasing the evolution of dance as well as the culture’s history at its African roots.

Yet something so beautifully demonstrative of this rich history, and optimistic in nature, was devastatingly overshadowed Wednesday evening by a horrible prank conducted by some unknown student (or students). Thursday morning a student resident found hanging from the ceiling of the Pike River Suites a noose made from rubber bands along with a threatening note.

The student who found the noose was unable to be reached for comment but Cindy Graham, interim dean of students, announced that serious investigation is being conducted to find the culprit. Chancellor Deborah Ford responded to the incident, saying, “At the University of Wisconsin-Parkside we’re proud of the diverse living and learning environment the campus offers our students, faculty, staff and the communities we serve. The type of behavior displayed by a very small number of people is not tolerated and will not be tolerated here.” The school conducted two all campus meetings addressing the incident.

Student perception was mixed, however. Upon hearing about the incident, student Gra Carr, noted “This kind of attack makes me sad to feel so unwanted on campus and makes me question why I am here.”

Yet another student immediately responded by saying that this was a solitary act of ignorance, that even though their history has been subject to racism, this lone racist act cannot stereotype the majority’s sentiment.

Dr. Mark Bilbrey, poetry professor, remarked on this conversation exclaiming “It is good to hear someone separate this ignorance as an exception, rather than a norm here at school. This person is on their own in their actions.” Students were seen wearing shirts exclaiming “RESPECT” to signify a unity in combatting these kinds of attacks.

While these actions against our students may seem to be a blot on the celebration of black history month, it is imperative to be reminded by something Dr. Kinchen said in his introduction speech, “Prove the cynics, prove the critics wrong.” No truer words have ever been spoken. This incident should not damper the greatness of black history and progress. An act of one does not account for the majority.

Next week, the festivities will continue, with a poetry read Wednesday, Feb. 8. UW-Parkside’s Black History Month Read-In highlights books by African American writers. Students read book excerpts from black authors as part of the national program. Spoken word artist Nico Moore begins the event with a performance. The read-in begins at noon in the UW-Parkside Library. Admission is free. Thursday, Feb. 9,  a great evening is planned that brings history to life. Starting at 7 p.m. in Studio A of The Rita, early civil rights activist Ida B is portrayed by a performance by the Uprooted Theater group.

Come support African American culture and history. It is clearly a part of our living American history, and support for these events with strengthen Parkside’s stand on a safe multi-cultural environment. By participating in this month’s celebrations we, as students, will combat one student’s act of racial ignorance.

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