Students discuss what it means to be black, African

By Elisabeth Loeck, NewsNewNebraska

If you’re a person of color, the U.S. Census gives you a few options to identify yourself – Black, African American or Negro.

But some students don’t identify themselves by any of those terms.

“I feel uncomfortable claiming that I’m African,” Dillon Jones said. “There is a rejection from both sides. There are Africans saying that you’re not African, and other saying that you’re not American. I’m just lost in the middle, angry and upset.”

What does it mean to be black? What does it mean to be African?

“Dish It Up,” a late-night discussion was held during Gaughan Week 2013 provide an opportunity for students to meet and debate this topic. Each week students meet during lunchtime on Tuesdays to discuss hot topics in race, diversity and multiculturalism. The session was held April 11 and attracted more than 60 people.

The conversation touched on stereotypes between blacks and Africans, African immigrants, and the terms people use to identify themselves.

“At the end of the day, we are all black, and that’s it,” one student said.

The Gaughan Week: Strengthening Multiculturalism and Inclusion ran April 7-12, 2013. A series of events filled the week, with a goal of promoting diversity and informing the campus about what the center has to offer.

An important concept that Jessica Sánchez, the Event Coordinator for the Gaughan Center, wanted to convey to students – “you don’t have to be multicultural to come here.”

The events of the week included musical events, cultural lectures and presentations and discussion panels. Beginning Sunday with a children’s carnival, the week included a jazz flute performance by Galen Abdur-Razzaq, student panels, a Zumba dance session and a rhythmic stomp performance by Step Afrika!, a step team from Washington D.C.

Sánchez plans to have the group return and perform during black history month next year.

Many of the events shared a common goal, getting students to think differently about diversity. Sánchez works closely with the RSOs that come out of the Gaughan Center and uses those connections to find hot topics that matter to students.

“I see than many students don’t know how to identify themselves. It is a topic that made me think, and something I want to see more of,” Sánchez said.

With the end of this year’s Gaughan Week, Sánchez looks to the future.

“Tomorrow is when I’m going to start planning next year, I want to do something completely new,” Sánchez said.

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