Black Lives Matter was the topic of last week’s ProfTalk that prompted faculty and students to speak in front of a diverse audience about what the trending topic means to them.
Four presenters spoke at the Feb. 22 event which was hosted in the Student Center’s Owl’s Nest. They included students Samuel Jay, Tyriese Holloway and Kevin Elsey, as well Kit Holder, an assistant professor of Educational Foundations and Africana Studies.
Jay, a second year graduate student and higher education administration major, presented a topic that mirrored his senior thesis on students of color and their road to success.
“One theme that I repeated multiple times is that history repeats itself,” Jay said.
Jay went on to talk about how in the 1950s and 1960s, people did not do their research and educate themselves about African American history. Today, he said, the resources are readily available, and young adults should take advantage of them.
“As an aspiring educator and up and coming administrator, I would highly encourage my students, especially if they’re African American, to get to know their history,” Jay said. “Black history is deeper than Rosa Parks, Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement.”
Elsey, a junior philosophy major, and president of the Black Cultural League (BCL) delivered a presentation, during which he turned off the lights and asked every one in the room to close their eyes.
For the next 35 minutes, Elsey wove in and out of tables chanting what black lives matter means to him. Between each chant, he sternly repeated “ears open, eyes closed,” reminding people to simply listen to him. He played three songs by artists Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar that were mostly spoken word. Elsey also chanted “I am God, I am love, ears open, eyes closed.”
“As I was talking I could feel the pain of the people,” Elsey said. “We are hurting, and we’re tired of hurting, that’s what black lives matter means. Black lives is those tears, black lives is that cry. We are crying because we want to love like [you all] can.”
He went on to explain that black individuals do not have the same privileges as other people.
“We go through hell, we are hell, just us being black in America, we [are] hell,” Elsey said. “You took us from our land and then forced us in this bulls— trying to figure out a way, and you made it 20 times harder.”
Elsey believed that during his presentation, he filled the room with love, which in turn got people to listen. He said if he had spread hate, no one would have listened.
“I speak for everybody,” Elsey said. “I live my life through everyone else, all my homies in the hood, everybody who is going through the struggle. I see the struggle and I’m talking for them.”
Elsey said that the purpose of his presentation was to promote change and express his distress about how black lives, and all lives matter. He stressed that he sees what goes on in his hometown of Camden, N.J., but wants other people to also see what is happening.
“I want people to understand that black lives do matter, all lives matter,” Elsey said. “I feel like a lot of people are sheltered from what we really go through. The media only portrays the cons of the urban communities, they never really portray the people that are trying to help, which is me.”
Elsey ended his presentation by turning the lights on, putting his hands up as to surrender and said, “stop don’t shoot, or we’ll shoot back.”
Freshman psychology major Christina Roman thought the presentation was interesting. Roman attended the ProfTalk because just hours before, Elsey approached her at random and invited her to come. She said she believes students can generate change by bringing up the issue that black lives matter and talking about it.
“Tomorrow people are going to talk about this, especially the debate,” Roman said. “I can’t say I liked it [Elsey’s presentation] and I can’t say I didn’t like it or that he was right or wrong. But it was interesting.”
For comments/questions about this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @thewhitfeatures.