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BC Ignites Urges Further Discussion

Three Student Speakers Address Issues Of Racism On Campus

Heights Editor

Published: Friday, September 28, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

ignite

Eun Hee Kwon / Heights Staff

Students found seats on the newly installed grass of O’Neill Plaza, the stone steps that border the renovated area, and the benches along the perimeter as the organizer of BC Ignites, Conor Sullivan, LSOE ’13, took the podium to begin the public forum on diversity and racism Monday night.

Sullivan thanked everyone for attending, and invited Synergy Hip Hop Dance Company to the front for an introductory performance. Following that, the keynote speaker and Director of the Office of AHANA Student Programs, Ines Maturana Sendoya urged audience members to think about how one should consider race and racism in the context of a Jesuit Catholic University. She stressed that the term “social justice” can apply to more than just traditional community service, and that justice must be advanced at home, as well.

“During the four years you’re at the Heights, Boston College is your home,” she said.

She also spoke about existing programs at BC that encourage and foster the kind of discussions BC Ignites was hoping to bring about, such as Dialogues on Race and FACES. She strongly echoed the sentiments of Sullivan and his reason for creating the event when she urged the audience to be proactive and start conversations about race with people from different backgrounds.

She concluded by encouraging people to think of changes that they could make in their lives regarding their relationship with race, and she asked people to email bcignites@gmail.com when they have made those changes.

Next, BC’s R&B and soul a cappella group B.E.A.T.S., or Black Experience in America Through Song, performed two songs.

Then came the three student speakers: Adriana Mariella, A&S ’14; Sandra Dickson, CSON ’13; and Matt Alonsozana, A&S ’14. Each student spoke about his or her experience with racism on campus and the solutions he or she thought would be effective to current problems. Sullivan and his selection committee had chosen the three speeches partially based on their extreme variance from one another. Drastically different experiences and solutions were put forth in an attempt to spark discussions within the audience. The goal, according to Sullivan, was to thrust out into the open the topic of racism at BC.

The venue itself served this purpose, as many students who seemingly had not previously known the event was taking place walked by and stopped to listen to the speakers.

“It’s exactly because we’re so comfortable with the status quo that people do not talk,” Alonsozana said.

And getting people to talk was the objective. “You shouldn’t be agreeing with what everyone says,” Sullivan said. “What I’d like people to do now that they’ve been to this event is read these speeches, talk to people about it and figure out what are some solutions to the problem.”

Sullivan and the speakers were pleased with how the event played itself out, and have begun to see the realization of the conversations they had wanted to instigate.

“In my years at BC, I don’t think I have ever seen a group so large and so diverse voluntarily gather for a forum event,” Alonsozana said. “Many people have approached me [since the event] saying that they are considering the issues much more deeply and openly than before, and I have received several emails and suggestions as to what more can be done.”

Dickson similarly considered the event a success.

“To my knowledge, this is the first event of its kind where everyone in the BC community is challenged to think about and talk about these issues in such a public forum,” she said. “I believe the event was a great conversation starter, and I can only hope that it awakens a desire in all of us to make a change in addressing these race issues.”

FACES hosted an event Wednesday night in Fulton 511 for students to reflect on the event and continue thinking about what changes need to be made at BC. Moderated by co-director of the FACES council TJ Manning, the event provided a forum for students to voice their reactions to speeches and talk more generally about their experiences with race on campus and how they feel the issue should be addressed. As an introduction, Manning outlined the four levels of racism: internal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional. Much of the discussion revolved around the predominant tendency to view racism as simply interpersonal and not look deeper into its cultural and systemic facets.

Those who attended the discussion came to the conclusion that one of the major barriers to real progress in this area is the lack of sustained interest on the part of non-AHANA students. While many students of all backgrounds attended BC Ignites on Monday in O’Neill Plaza, the students that came to the discussion were almost exclusively AHANA.

“The problem is that I think everyone at the event is coming from a similar perspective, and so it may have been a bit one-sided of a conversation.  Not to say that it was not a productive discussion, but  I wish that more white students had been there to immerse themselves in the sometimes uncomfortable subject of race,” Manning said.

Sullivan, in light of the success of the Monday event, intends to go forward with his plans in making this a regular event, perhaps once a semester. “My goal is to put together a team to help me out with that for next semester,” he said.

Sullivan emphasized the most important thing to know about BC Ignites: “This is not the end of the discussion.”

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