In recognition of Black History Month and to promote unity, Freed-Hardeman faculty and students gathered recently to discuss Claudia Rankine’s book of poetry “Citizen: An American Lyric.”
From tense encounters to inaccurate assumptions, the book highlights the challenges faced by minorities in today’s society. FHU assistant professor Neil Segars facilitated the conversation with five panelists - T.J. Kirk, principal of Chester County Middle School; Nadine McNeal, FHU assistant professor of social work; and three FHU students: Sandrea Sylman, Jazmin Taylor and Kenneth Moore. Each panelist read excerpts from the book and shared how some of the stories held personal meaning for them.
In one of the poems, the phrase, “where you are now and where you are going can shorten" resonates with Taylor. A junior business major, she said she works to keep her composure when she is facing adversity.
“The wrong reaction to what someone says or does to me can have a negative impact on my future,” Taylor said. “That’s why I remind myself to remember my mission.”
More than 50 students attended the discussion. Kirk challenged those in the room to take the opportunity to stand up for one another.
“When someone else is being offended and you have the opportunity to stand with them and you do not, then nothing will change,” Kirk said. “We must back each other up, and until we get to that point, racism, sexism and every other form of discrimination will continue.”
FHU senior Gregory Puckett attended the discussion and heard perspectives that were new to him. “A lot of things were foreign to me,” Puckett said. “The things they shared aren’t things that I deal with, but I want to be more fair to people like Jesus was.”
Listening to one another was the theme of not only the book discussion, but also the message FHU President David Shannon shared during 83rd annual Bible Lectureship and with faculty and staff this month. “May we cease to live separate and do a better job of listening and wipe away arrogance [enabling us]to stop and listen,” he said.
Segars and McNeal hope students will continue to listen to one another. “This is a discussion that can continue,” Segars said. “I hope students start to talk to each other more and allow the barriers to break down.”