By Zoe Rader
Charlottesville, The Ku Klux Klan and the death of Lieutenant Richard Collins III were just a few of the prevalent issues addressed at the annual State of Black Leadership event hosted by UMCP’s NAACP chapter that took place Thursday night in the Van Munching building.
Roughly 40 people attended the panel discussion, which focused on hate crimes and racial tensions in America. The conversation also touched upon racism and micro-aggressions that students sometimes experience on UMD’s campus.
Claire Hunt, a sophomore psychology and public health double major, said she mainly attended the event to become more aware of current racial issues. “It’s easy for me to be ignorant and more passive rather than active,” she said. “People in the white community who have white privilege need to become more involved to make sure we all live in an equal, inclusive society.”
Four panelists answered questions delegated by members of the NAACP chapter. Panelists included professors, UMD students and former NAACP chapter leaders who are all local activists in the black community. Among them was Terri Adams, an Associate Professor at Howard University and UMD alumna, and Trey Huff, a senior biochemistry major and political activism chair for the NAACP chapter.
Topics ranged from white supremacy to racial violence to President Trump’s rhetoric and actions over the past year. Police brutality was also discussed.
“There’s aversive racism and there’s blatant racism and a lot of what we’re seeing right now is that blatant racism is being accepted,” Adams said on the topic.
When asked what it means to be an African American in the U.S. right now, panelists used words such as numbness, anger and exhaustion. However, they also expressed hope and urged for Americans to open up to activist voices in order to instill change.
Gregory Jackson II, a sophomore electrical engineering major, said he thinks these events are important “especially with the tension that’s been going on in the wake of Lieutenant Collins death…so that we understand what is going on in the black community now and how to address certain issues.”
Jocelyn Nolassco, a junior government and politics major and program director for the NAACP chapter, said, “Even before the death and murder of Richard Collins we had events like this in order to remind our community that these are things we need to continue to fight for.”
This year’s theme was “American Horror Story: White House BlaKKK Market,” based on the popular thriller TV series.
“We decided on this American Horror Story theme because it’s the one year anniversary of the election,” Nolassco said. “Just in this one year we’ve seen a lot of threats to our communities. Whether it’s the Muslim ban or forcing transgender people to be out of the military, it really does feel like an American Horror story especially for our communities of color.”
The NAACP chapter on campus will continue to hold more events and activities in the future to combat a tense racial climate in the country, Jackson II said. “We’re working hard in creating an atmosphere of social justice for everyone.”