‘Race Matters’ Reveals Students’ Struggles with Identity

While the majority of FAMU students are black, there is still a wide diversity of culture on campus.

A forum event called “Race Matters” was held on Monday in Gaither Gym and involved a group of students, as panelists, from different cultural backgrounds to discuss what it means to be black.

While participants disagreed on a number of issues, there was a strong consensus that despite cultural differences they were all black.

“I’m a Haitian. My mom’s a Haitian. My dad’s a Haitian. But even more importantly, I’m black.” said panelist Louis Jean-Baptiste, a political science student from Palm Beach, Fla.

Jean-Baptiste encouraged students to look past the differences because “what unites us is way stronger than what divides us.”

The audience presented their own personal experiences showcasing the diversity in Florida A&M students.

Samantha Chahin, 19, a sophomore pharmacy student from Miami, shared her struggle with people accepting her as black even on FAMU’s campus. She referred to a time when a classmate told her she was not black; Chahin asked rhetorically why she was not accepted as a black person.

“Why can I not be accepted as black? Why, because I’m Dominican? Why, because I’m Arabic I cannot be accepted as black?” Chahin asked the audience rhetorically.

While panelists Lucas Melton, Gabriella Blanco, Edmond Baker, Darryl Gordon, and Jean-Baptiste remarked on the topics, the small audience was very active in giving feedback. The audience was anxious to have their voices heard and opinions acknowledged.

Moderator Steven Pargett, 21, a senior public relations student from Los Angeles, praised the audience for being present saying that quantity is always better than quality.

Even though students crowded into Gaither for the presidential debate that ended right before the forum, the majority of the crowd left. After the crowd subsided, there were less than 30 students remaining.

Natalie Amore, 18, a freshman biology student serving as a freshman senator, helped orchestrate the forum as part of the Student Government Association’s black history month celebration.

Amore, who wrote the bill to get the celebration funded, defended her committee’s bill in order to see the events’ fruition and the lack of attendance disappointed her.

“They [attendees of the presidential debate] came to [the debate] see the drama basically,” Amore said. “But for Race Matters, they did not want to stay because there’s no drama in here. It’s drama-free, it’s real, and it’s life. It’s what we came from.”

Hannah Brooks, a graduate student in the master’s of applied social sciences program from Chicago, attributed low attendance to the campaign season.

“People can get very consumed in FAMU life,” Brooks said. “They forget there’s life after FAMU.”

While she wished more people attended, Brooks said she was pleased that the forum even happened and that a small group could make a difference.

“The nation was founded by 55 people. We don’t need everybody else, so that’s all that matters.”