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UNCG conference on black culture sparks ideas

By Hannah Simpson
Around the Town Editor

Photo courtesy of the Office of Multicultural and Minority Affairs
The Office of Multicultural and Minority Affairs Council of Presidents, from left, back row, Adviser Robert Canida, Adviser Virgil Oxendine, Yetunde Akindahunsi, front row, Brayam Pinilla, Kristina Chaney, Carine Francios and Jamel Porter attended the Shades of Color conference at UNC-Greensboro Feb. 2. The COP participated in workshops that discussed perceptions, stereotypes, and gender issues in black culture.

The Office of Multicultural and Minority Affairs’ Council of Presidents participated in UNC-Greensboro’s “Shades of Color” conference Feb. 2 to discuss perceptions of “black culture” for Black History Month.

Students, faculty and staff gathered from across the state to discuss African American and African cultures, perceptions of these cultures and stereotypes in more than 20 workshops taught by professors, students and national organizations.

Workshops included discussions of “gangsta rap,” hip-hop, perceptions of privilege and language that African and African American youth use today.

Cultural learning
Featured speakers included author and professor of black popular culture at Duke University Mark Anthony Neal and activist Rosa Clemente, a black Puerto Rican hip-hop journalist.

“I felt like I learned a lot more about my culture,” said Yetunde Akindahunsi, president of the African Student Organization and first generation natural born citizen. Her parents emigrated from Nigeria in 1986.

Akindahunsi discussed the advantages of each race, gender, religion and sexual orientation in a workshop on privileges in society. She said it was interesting to note the reactions of many of the participants in the discussion on “white supremacy.”

“If you keep dwelling on [it], how are you going to let it go?” she asked of their anger towards the past.

Masculinity issues
Jamel Porter, president of the 10% Society, said he attended a workshop discussing the perceptions of masculinity; he was surprised to discuss how society views homosexual males as non-masculine.

Porter also attended the session on “gangsta rap,” which he said “really opened my eyes.”

The workshop was designed to break down rap songs in the early '90s and compare them to today’s rap songs.

What was found, Porter said, was that the earlier music often had a message that questioned why certain life situations existed for the black population.

Today’s rap music deals mostly with degradation and material items, Porter said.

Porter said he would like to invite several speakers to campus.

Latino involvement
Inspired by learning that the Latin community protested with African Americans during the Civil Rights movement, Brayam Pinilla, president of the Interested Gentlemen of Lambda Theta Phi, said he wants to research the cultural connection.

After learning that Greek organizations also banded together to protest, Pinilla questioned why fraternities and sororities don’t seem to fight together to create change any longer.

Stereotyping
During one of the workshops, the Council participated in a game that involved using stereotypes.

Workshop participants had a characteristic taped to their back: obese, homeless, pregnant teen, sexually confused and others.
The participants then had to give each other clues about their characteristic using stereotypes.

Carine Francios, president of the National Council for Negro Women, said she was labeled “elderly,” and had most participants ask if she needed help across the street.

First time attendance
Robert Canida, director for the Office of Multicultural and Minority Affairs, also attended conferences on perceptions of black culture and masculinity.

Canida said this is the first Shades of Color conference the Council of Presidents has attended, despite being invited for several years.

It was a prime opportunity for the Council to attend due to the workshops presented, Canida said.

Many of the issues discussed in the conference, such as gender, perceptions and popular culture, are also discussed among the presidents and organizations, he said.

Some of the presidents expressed a desire to let UNCP host a Shades of Color conference in the future, Canida said, adding that the only drawback is the lack of hotels in the town of Pembroke to accommodate visitors from other schools and areas.

Conference at UNCP
Francios said she believes UNCP would benefit from holding a diversity conference that allowed for other universities and organizations to come and network with students.

Canida said he hopes the presidents will take what they learned from the Color of Shades conference and incorporate it into their organizations.

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Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2008
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