To tackle stereotypes from both sides of the tracks, Florida A&M’s Diversity Department took suggestions via Twitter throughout Thursday and passed out note cards at the beginning of what would become a unique discussion. Florida State and FAMU Students gathered in Rm. 100 of B. L. Perry for a forum called Building Black Unity to promote solidarity within the local black student community.
“Students were surveyed about their thoughts of black students on the other campus,” said Kezia Gilyard, Building Black Unity volunteer. “Most of the students were freshmen and sophomores, and most of the people felt there was a difference between students at FAMU and FSU.”
Hannah Brooks, director of the Department of Diversity, had the crowd play ice-breaker games before the discussion. These games encouraged the students to look for people they had never met before and find out about them. They were asked to learn the person’s name, major, school and what they hoped to gain from the meeting.
The guests then got back in their seats and the meeting turned into an open forum as the meeting organizers read the questions received. By the third question, the mood became serious.
“Why did the Black Student Union decline the debate,” read Asha Rizor, director-elect of the Diversity Department in the fall of 2011. FSU College Republicans and FAMU Debate Team competed recently in a debate over affirmative action, health care and immigration.
The forum continued with a series of questions ranging from the uninterested attitude students have toward informative meetings to the need for the students to come together as one. Each question was handled with sincerity and understanding. Emotions were high as ideas and solutions were exchanged.
“I have something to say. I appreciate you guys talking about transportation during NAACP, but if we only support it one day a month or when it is your week one day, that’s not going to do anything for the long term sustainability of these places,” said Rizor. “We have to go out and support them [black-owned businesses] on a regular basis.”
“I got from this meeting basically what I think FAMU has been learning as of late, which is that we need a community,” said Ciara Taylor, member of Grand Theft Education and fourth-year Spanish student at FAMU. “I think that’s definitely what this did. Now that we were able to reach across the railroad tracks to our counterparts at Florida State I think that even better things are to come.”