Florida A&M University kicked off Black History Month Thursday, Feb. 7 in Lee Hall during the “400 Years of Black History: Town Hall” event. The event featured a panel of professors and a student, they discussed topics ranging from activism, preservation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities’, immigration and the 2020 Presidential Election.
The purpose of the event was to analyze the progress the black community has made, while also examining the issues the black community is facing in the present. Panelist and associate history professor Darius Young set the tone of the event by noting the importance of discussing black history.
“Black history is not a 400-year old discussion,” Young said. “Black history begins with the first person to set foot on Earth.”
Other panelists included history professors Reginald Ellis, Tiffany Packer, Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor, and junior African-American studies major Daria Dockery.
Proctor used examples from the past to highlight how much further America still has to go in order to be fair and equal. He spoke on the recent incident of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam coming under fire after photos from his medical yearbook showcased him wearing blackface, surfaced the media.
“Amazingly as 20 people got off the boat in Georgetown in 1619, six days ago the Governor of Virginia was trying to explain how he was sorry for wearing blackface,” Proctor said. “In 1619 20 people got off of a boat in Virginia as slaves, and the other year someone drives a car through a crowd of people.”
The importance of HBCU’s as cultural centers became a topic of discussion due to Bennett College regaining stature after facing the fright of closure. The all-female college, located in Greensboro, N.C., gained national attention after leading a community-wide effort to raise funds for the school in order to keep its doors open. Currently, the school has surpassed its fundraising goal of $5 million to a total of $8.2 million.
Another topic of discussion was about the future of political leaders such as Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams, and Kamala Harris. Questions on whether voting is still beneficial followed as Proctor recalled the results of the 2018 Gubernatorial Race and the recount efforts that took place soon after.
“You’re in Florida where all of Gillum’s votes didn’t get counted and how do you expect people to continue to believe in a process of fraud where whose votes count often reflect what party the demographic represent,” Proctor said. “So, the last election of 2018 does not hold well for faith in the electoral process.”
The panel held well with students as they were inspired by the conversation that the panelists held. The 112th Miss FAMU and senior biological engineering major, Imani Cooper, shared what stood out to her most about the town hall.
“What stood out to me the most was a quote from Dr. Reginald Ellis where he stated that ‘Freedom is in education’…having educators that look like our minority students that teach on science and math can inspire the next engineer or doctor and truly make our people free,” Cooper said. “This inspired me further to pursue a career in education teaching S.T.E.M. in urban areas that are not educational equal.”
Freshmen business administration major Tristan Napoleon left the event motivated. He believed the event was inspiring and relevant.
“This was mind-opening they really focused on the issues that a lot of us young African-Americans face.” Napoleon said. “As a person, I know that it is important to make sure that I am setting an example for those who will come after me.”
Typically, town hall meetings happen a few times a semester in order to check in on students and inform the public on the issues of the black community. With guests leaving the event feeling empowered and informed, there will more than likely be more town hall events to come in the future.