Panel discusses African-American males, stand your ground

Florida A&M faculty, staff and students gathered in Perry Paige Auditorium on Wednesday for a panel discussion and presentation for “Maafa Day.”

Wednesday’s date was chosen because Feb. 26 marks two years since the death of Trayvon Martin.

Seward Hamilton, an assistant professor of psychology, organized the event, where panelists discussed the victimization of African-American males through use of the “stand your ground” law.

According to data submitted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the rate of justifiable homicides has risen by 200 percent since 2005, when the law was implemented.

However, there is still debate about whether this spike is directly related to the “stand your ground” law.

Rose Campbell, a professor in the department of educational leadership & human services, believes the evidence is conclusive. She said the “stand your ground” law negatively impacts the black community.

“As the ‘stand your ground’ law exists today, it is not of any value to anybody that you know because most of the people you know look like us,” said Campbell, referring to the majority African-American audience. “And usually these are the victims.”

The evening involved presentations explaining how laws skewed against African-Americans pass legislators and how students can be instrumental in changing and deterring similar legislation.

Merlin Langley, an associate professor in the department of social work, presented a three-step proposal to educate African-Americans on how to detect biases in the legislative system.

Langley believes workshops should be held to teach African-Americans how to identify offensive mechanisms and implement resistance mechanisms using political means.

“I think about being effective in learning to negotiate these systems of oppression,” Langely said. “And I think we need to start teaching our students and holding workshops on how to be effective and competent in negotiating the system.”

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, a FAMU alumnus, also joined the discussion.

In 2013, Williams sponsored a bill to repeal the “stand your ground” law. His attempt was unsuccessful, but he believes that FAMU is in the optimal place to create legislative change.

Williams said students should engage their legislators if they want to repeal or amend the law.

That’s why you have to come up to the Capitol,” Williams said.

Williams added that FAMU students have an advantage when it comes to passing legislature.

“You know, as FAMU students, you’re fortunate because you’re right here in Tallahassee, one of the hotbeds for political activism in this country,” Williams said. “So you have to take advantage of your proclivity to the state Capitol to get engaged, get involved and make your voice heard.”

President of the Marcus Garvey Club Kenya Strickland, a fourth-year African-American studies student from Orlando, believes students should value forums such as these.

“The most important thing, of course, is the educational aspect,” Strickland said. “What students should take from this is that our professors cared enough about us to give us events outside of the classroom that will teach us outside of the classroom. And I would encourage students to come to events like this as well.”