A Prideful Turnout Of Unity

Photo courtesy of Jasiri X.

SUNY New Paltz students made it clear this month that they will not tolerate discrimination.

Students, graduates and faculty of SUNY New Paltz took pride in black culture and united with each other on Black Solidarity Day at the Pointe of Family Praise Life Center in Kingston on Monday, Nov. 3.

Over 300 students participated in Black Solidarity Day. Students of all different races did not attend class. At the end of the day, five buses filled with students returned to the campus from the day-long event.

“We honestly did not expect this magnitude,” Yaranny “Rookie” Reynoso, secretary of the Black Student Union, said. “Past years you were able to find a seat. It was a full house. An amazing turnout.”

The event consisted of four workshops instructed by the university’s graduates and faculty, Jada Young, M.A., Nita Ita J. Thomas, M.S., professor Charles Dumas and professor Luis Inoa, as well as the keynote address and performances from both Jasiri X and student club Urban Lyrics.

“I hope students of color gain a sense of community and confidence because it’s tough being different in terms of race in a place where people don’t look like you,” Reynoso said. “And for people who aren’t of color, I hope they gain some knowledge of this and pass it on to promote awareness of struggles of people of color.”

Before Urban Lyrics performed their piece one of the members, Wordplay, who attended for the first time, said he was amazed and enlightened by the support.

Young conducted a workshop, Taking Back Black Media on the representation of culture. She said the purpose of the day is to show the importance black people have in society.

She said it is important “to show the campus community how life would be different without the black student population.”

First-year undeclared student Claurie Lindor participated in Thomas’ social media workshop about how African-American culture is portrayed and stigmatized.

“I learned that we’re programmed to learn a certain way about ourselves and because of that we tend to perpetuate stereotypes,” she said. “We need to be conscious of those stereotypes and not perpetuate them.”

This year’s theme of Black Solidarity Day was Through Our Eyes: Blacks In Media. Keynote speaker and underground rapper Jasiri X presented a slideshow focusing on how black men are more criminalized in the media than white men.

“They [the media] didn’t use the picture of Michael Brown in his graduation uniform,” Jasiri X said. “They chose a photo of Michael Brown that could put him in a particular light where the media could say, ‘Okay, this is why he was killed. He struggled with an officer. He deserved to die. He deserved to be killed.’”

Jasiri X then told the audience about his experiences at one of the marches in Ferguson, MO.

“People were passing us bandanas in case they tear gassed us,” he said. “Some of them had gas masks. They weren’t dressed like that because that’s how they always dress. They had been tear gassed by the police.”

Breana Hendricks, a fourth-year Fine Arts and ceramics major who attended Black Solidarity Day for the third time, said she liked how hands-on the keynote was.

“He allowed the audience to interact with him rather to be a lecture,” she said. “Being able to interact with him allowed me to be more informed.”