The Blackness Worldwide event was an opportunity for the open discussion of on Feb. 19 at MWSU to help better understand diversity.
The International Center hosted Blackness Worldwide: One Color, Many Cultures as one of the many diversity events they put on. This is the second annual Blackness Worldwide that has been put on by the department.
The occasion started out with food and then moved to a student panel question/answer time. The students who were on the panel were asked questions by Oganya Agbaji, the organizer of the event and an International Center staffer, such as what they define themselves as, what makes them black and whether their blackness is “flexible.” As the questions went along, it became clear that Agbaii was allowing the differences and similarities between the panelists to be seen. The panelists brought different perspectives and cultures as some were from different countries and all had a uniqueness in how they had been raised.
Marcus Triplett, a MWSU student and an International Center employee, spoke on the work Agbaii did and her motives behind the event. “She wanted to do something that focused everyone’s attention to black history and for everyone to see that even within the one group of people that there are a variety of backgrounds,” Triplett said. “She wanted to highlight the clash between the two cultures and for the white attendants to see the differences and similarities between black people.”
Those in attendance thought the event was interesting seeing how the different sub-groups were emphasized. “I’m considerably older than they are, so when they are trying to answer question ‘Do you identify yourself as black?’ I wanted to shout out that black is not a monolith,” community member Drew Brown said. “There isn’t a book that says this is black. When you look at the videos and hip-hop culture, that’s a whole different thing than folks like me who are college educated, and my parents were too. We don’t relate to the gangsta’ life style or the ghetto.”
Another attender, Miranda Durr, felt that the event provided a good space for open discussion. “I really enjoyed the event, as it allowed me to see a perspective that I’ll never have,” Durr said. “I think events like this are really important, because it allows us to see the cultures that our friends and classmates come from, but also asked some harder questions that some may feel hesitant to ask.”
Panelist Zoie Reynolds believes that Blackness Worldwide was a success. “We think the event went great,” Reynolds said. “We had a really good turnout of students and staff. Also, the dialogue was honest and productive. We’re happy the audience was eager and able to engage with the panelists also.” She continued by saying, “By drawing out our cultural differences we can also identify our similarities. It is more about having a necessary dialogue that rarely gets to happen. It also highlights the different shades, personalities, and cultures within the black community.”