Panel questions the roles blacks play in media

“Does anyone know what a minstrel show is?” Keon Hardeman asked the audience at the Bamboozled seminar held by the Beta Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Wednesday.

The seminar was held to question the role of blacks currently in the media.

The Alphas, along with a panel of five individuals and a room of college students, decided that they were not only going to answer this question, they would offer solutions.

“I hope that the students who attended the seminar will gain insightful and informative knowledge about a topic that they knew something about or did not know anything at all about,” said Larry Ferguson, a fourth-year business administration student from Charleston, S.C.

The moderator for the event was Hardeman, a senior business student from Miami.

“What are the similarities between the portrayals of blacks in the media yesterday compared to today?” Hardeman asked. Sharon Dennard, a psychologist and owner of Amen-Ra’s Bookstore, felt there was not a difference.

She brought up the Oscar-winning role that Halle Berry had in Monster’s Ball and how she though Berry pushed blacks 50 years back.

FAMU alumnus Gregg Bishop said he believes these portrayals are even worse than the minstrel shows because black performers who portray the roles do so optionally.

One panelist said many non-blacks watch black shows to understand black people.

“Because of the disconnect between the black community and whites and non-whites, many groups look to American media to gain understanding and insight into the passion and causes of black people,” said Steven Jumper, a senior English student from Washington.

But the shows non-whites watch to learn about black people aren’t watched by as many black people.

“Last week’s ratings revealed that ‘Flavor of Love’ was the second most watched show coming after the NFL football game,” Bishop said. “But when the same study was done of only black households, ‘CSI’ was the second most watched show after the NFL, proving that the people that are watching ‘Flavor of Love’ are not black, but people of other cultures.”

Dennard was shocked at the small amount of people that turned out for what she considered the seminar compared to how many attended the comedy show a week ago to which over 1,000 students went.

“Probably half of FAMU would take a role that compromises their character,” said Courtney Culmer, a communications student from Florida State University about blacks taking roles that degrade them.

“The power is in the money. Because we don’t own any major television networks, black people are struggling to get a piece of the pie, and they feel that they have to get it any way that they deem possible,” she said.

Not many FAMU students attended the seminar because too few black people care about intellectual issues, Dennard said.

“The majority of blacks are not interested in concepts that will feed their intellect,” she said. “Less than 10 percent of the population watches the broadcast news. It’s about control, the domino effect and all the pieces falling into place.

“If you’re going to talk about something needing change but not taking the necessary steps to change it, then you’re not helping the society. The best evidence of what you’re going to do is what you have done and what you’re currently doing,” Dennard continued.

Hardemon said he felt the people who attended learned something that night.

“In the end, three solutions came out of this seminar: reading, turning off the television and mentoring,” Hardeman said.