Radford’s NAACP marches to celebrate diversity

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Aaron Farmer | aafarmer@radford.edu

Radford University’s NAACP gathered students last Thursday, Feb. 25 to march on campus in celebration of black history, culture, and pride.

“This is supposed to reinforce in your minds that you’re beautiful in all the different shades that you are,” said Radford University’s NAACP President Ashly Poindexter to the group of students gathered outside.

“Growing up, I experienced a lot of discrimination,” said Poindexter. “So I knew when I got to college, I wanted to be a part of some activist organization. I found the NAACP, and really found a home here.”

Poindexter began the march with an announcement to the group from the steps outside Tyler Hall, followed by a reading of “The Black Prayer,” an uplifting poem that calls out the beauty of being black in a world that often labels it a burden.

The theme of the event called on students to celebrate their uniqueness by filling in the blank on signs that read “My Black Is…” with words like powerful, brave, and excellent.

The group stopped at several locations around campus to read poems about perseverance, beauty, and the struggles black Americans still face today.

Conversations on racial inequality, dealing with prejudice, and the Black Lives Matter movement surged when the participants convened upstairs in the Bonnie to shake off the cold and discuss the issues over hot chocolate.

“If we don’t start standing up for ourselves, other people will speak for us,” said senior Terrance Maynard on why involvement in diversity groups and activism is so important.

Maynard recalled the moment he realized how the color of his skin might affect his life – when his family sat him down and explained the harsh, unfortunate realities of racism.

“They said, if you get caught stealing in a store, the penalties can be much worse,” said Maynard. “And that was at a young age. That conversation is so terrifying, and yet so real about the society that we live in.”

Sophomore Taylor Hairston remembered an incident that took place in her home city of Washington, D.C., when security was called inside a store because other patrons were shoplifting.

“Security immediately came and questioned me, but I hadn’t done anything. I was in the store with my mom,” she said.

While civil rights leaders of the 1960s focused on stopping overt racism such as segregation and hate groups, modern activists work to end the more subtle, institutionalized forms of prejudice and inequality that still exists today.

Studies conducted on how race affects an individual’s livelihood have shown large gaps in opportunity between minorities and whites.

A 2003 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that resumes with stereotypically “black-sounding” names were 33 percent less likely to be called for interviews.

Similar studies on housing accessibility conducted as recently as 2012 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have shown that although rates of discrimination have improved dramatically since the 1970s, minorities searching for a home to buy or rent still face problems – they are often shown fewer properties, offered less buyer incentives, and denied lease continuations more frequently.

Geoffrey Preudhomme, a sophomore, said he just recently became involved in diversity groups on campus after following the Black Lives Matter movement that sparked national attention after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“The biggest focus right now is criminal justice,” said Preudhomme on the Black Lives Matter movement. “But it seems like, just like the Civil Rights Movement, this is a long-term trend of pushing for legislation, and reforming all these institutions from education to health care.”

Preudhomme cited leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. as his inspiration, and said that involvement from all people is important to the success of any movement.

“It takes the majority to join the minority for change to happen,” said Preudhomme. “aad for people of color to get everybody involved in what’s going on, and that’s what I’m seeing, and it’s such a beautiful thing.”

For more information on events, or how to get involved with the NAACP or other diversity awareness groups on campus, contact the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at diverse@radford.edu