Black Issues Conference promotes unity, education

Noah Jones and Noah Jones

The 14th Annual Black Issues Conference promoted power and unity for the black community, encouraging attendants to pursue further education and business goals and educating them on issues facing the black community.

The conference was hosted by the Black Graduate Student Organization and the Office of Multicultural Affairs in the Union Ballroom this past Saturday.

The conference’s theme this year was “The Power of One: Building a Commitment to Constructure Cooperation.” There were six speeches students could listen to, including sessions on LGBT rights and dating.

Alexandria Harris, who spoke of starting a business and marketing, said that she was happy for the opportunity to speak to the students.

“I’m glad to give back to them things I know and wish I knew at their age,” Harris said. “These students have the opportunity here in college to take advantage of this now instead of looking back at the age of 40 and asking ‘what if?’”

The keynote speaker, Kathryn Williams, spoke during the conference’s luncheon about the changing roles of blacks in Universities.

“When I went to the University of Pennsylvania, there were only 400 [black] students. Today there are 1,000,” Williams said. “When my mother went there, there were only four black students.”

In her speech, Williams said each person was held responsible in establishing black culture and that the audience needed to “re-evaluate how we think of ourselves as a black nation.”

“We are all powerful in our own way,” Williams said.

Tobias Spears gave a speech on LGBT issues specific to the black community.

“It’s important for students to understand that LGBT issues are not insulated from black issues,” Spears said. “Black students here have multiple identities, and we have to nurture them holistically.”

Sakina Trevathan, head of the Black Graduate Student Organization, considered the conference to be a success.

“We had a great turnout. Despite the weather, everything worked out great,” Trevathan said. “We as a people matter … we need to celebrate our culture, not reinforce it.”

Vitto Brown, member of the Black Culture Club at Bowling Green High School, said the conference was important for people of all races.

“It is important to see what black culture is all about and to gain insight on things not learned in school,” Brown said.