Soledad O’Brien Black in America tour


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Soledad O’Brien presented the “Black in America” Tour on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts. O’Brien, a broadcast journalist, weaved a narrative of issues the black community faces. Many students came to the Weis Center to see the presentation and ask questions to a panel consisting of Antonio French, the 21st Ward alderman in St. Louis; Julianne Malveaux, an economist, author, and political commentator; Chuck D from Public Enemy; and Carmen Gillespie, Professor of English and Director of the Griot Institute for Africana Studies.

O’Brien opened the presentation by discussing Ferguson and the “Black Lives Matter” slogan. O’Brien posed a serious—yet extremely important—question that shaped the rest of the presentation: “What’s happening in society that we have to state, unequivocally, what lives have value?”

O’Brien then examined the facts behind racial inequality in America. She explained that in comparison to white Americans, black Americans have higher levels of debt, higher unemployment rates, and are more likely to drop out of school.

The narrative then moved on to the issue of police brutality. O’Brien shared a shocking statistic: 83 percent of people who are stopped and frisked are black, but 90 percent of these people are never charged. O’Brien then shared a video from the CNN documentary series she hosts, Black In America,”about the struggles of a teenage boy who has been stopped by police over one hundred times for no apparent reason. These statistics and videos illustrated to the audience that police brutality is not an issue limited to a few individuals such as Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

After the presentation, O’Brien moderated a panel discussion. The panelists answered audience questions regarding issues such as the potential for policy change in America, the role of the youth in today’s movements, and ways to discuss and address racial issues at the University.

The event was free to the public and presented by the Bucknell Student Lectureship Committee, the Campus Activities and Programs (CAP) Center, and Bucknell Student Government (BSG).

-Gillian Feehan, Senior Writer

 

 

In the past, some excellent, well-known speakers have come to the University. How does the University get these speakers to come out to central Pennsylvania? Most of the credit goes to the Student Lectureship Committee, along with help from the Campus Activities & Programs (CAP) Center. Typically, the Student Lectureship Committee uses formal and informal surveys to find out which speakers students would like to hear. Then it’s a matter of who they can book.

“To get big names on campus it is a mix of negotiations, process and availability,” Director of Campus Activities & Programs Mike Duignan said.

However, how they selected Soledad O’Brien was a bit atypical. A speaker agency offered the “Black in America” tour on the same day Bucknell Student Government (BSG) was conducting its campus climate panel, which was partially focused on diversity at the University.

“Members of the lectureship committee were in that meeting and saw a need,” Duignan said.

The Student Lectureship Committee had never hosted a lecture and panel like the “Black in America” tour before, but it decided to take the chance. Interestingly, a few days after signing the contract, the Ferguson decision was made.

“This was not part of why we decided initially [to choose O’Brien], but we knew we were right in taking on this unique opportunity as we felt Bucknell needed to have this conversation,” Duignan said.

Madeline Diamond, News Editor

 

Quotes:

“After Julianne Malveaux stated power is only conceded when demanded, I strongly rethought the means of social change. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to attend such a powerful, thought-provoking talk from such intelligent people.” Jeremy van de Rijn ’15

 

“I thought that O’Brien’s speech and the panel was a great way to start an open conversation about race in America here at Bucknell.” Paige Lommerin ’15

 

“I thought it was very interesting hearing Soledad and the panel discuss different issues and how it contributes to the way African Americans perceive themselves.” Mike Pesin ’15

 

“I thought the event was very informative. I liked how the panel discussed some issues that minorities face, but how they also focused on everyone as the ‘human race.’” Melissa Walker ’17

 

“It was an incredible privilege to be able to participate in this event, and to be involved in ongoing discussion about issues of race, class, and power dynamics in American society with so many of my fellows students. This is the sort of event I came to Bucknell to be a part of—it was amazing to hear Bucknellians talk about their experiences and contribute to such a powerful project.” Darby Hamilton ’15

 

“Unfortunately, however, only a small portion of students and faculty arose to the occasion to listen and participate in this event. This was incredibly unfortunate to me as someone who believes that the dialogue regarding race, race relations, and recent conflicts must include everyone no matter his or her race to achieve a positive outcome. Such a conversation will only go as far as those in the audience engage with it. Lack of dialogue between a variety of students, as that of last night, unfortunately halts progression and discussion in regards to, well, “Black in America.” Soledad O’Brien mentioned at the beginning of her talk, the night’s conversation is not an easy one to have and as such, it repels a lot of people. Easiness is not a road college-age students should be taking.” Elizabeth Bacharach ’15

 

“I will, however, step down from my pedestal of Bucknell student judgment and discuss my reaction to Black In America. Frankly, I was disappointed with O’Brien’s presentation. I felt like she was performing as if she was still on Face the Nation. As an aspiring journalist, O’Brien is an incredible inspiration and idol. On the same note, however, it appeared that she was so accustomed to reading from a teleprompter and an interview-sheet as a broadcast journalist that she forgot where she was, a college, and who her audience was, college students. Additionally, it felt as if her presentation was heavily reliant on statistics and PowerPoint presentation of these numbers. To me, this took away from the potential value of the topic. In retrospect, I believe I would have benefited and valued the discussion far more if it was just that: a discussion. Despite my disappointment, it was still an honor to be in O’Brien’s presence, listen to her speak, and be a part of a rhetoric that deserves far more attention.” Elizabeth Bacharach ’15

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