Pitt African American Alumni Council hosts webinar on student and alumni activism
Information is more accessible than ever and student activists can reach more people than they imagined, according to Destiny Mann. The widespread use of social media makes it much more difficult to ignore activists and their concerns.
“I think that got people to join the fight. Because now you can’t pretend you don’t know, ”said Mann, the president of Pitts Black Action Society and Black Senate.
the African American Alumni Council hosted a webinar entitled “Activism Through the Decades” on Saturday. The panel – made up of black students, alumni, and community leaders – focused on student and alumni activism and was open to questions from the audience.
Latara Jones, a board member of AAAC, moderated the event, and Curtiss Porter, a founding member of BAS and former Chancellor of Penn State’s Greater Allegheny campus, acted as moderator.
Mann said that students involved in activism need to remember to take care of their mental health due to the amount of work and time that such activism requires. Man helped BAS, along with 17 other black student organizations, Submit a list of more than 20 requirements to the university in June 2020. These were the biggest changes BAS has requested since then the famous 1969 takeover of the Cathedral of Learning where dozens of black students, including Porter, locked themselves in the building’s data center to ask the university to improve conditions for black students, faculty, and other members of the Pitt community.
“When it comes to student activism, it’s really time-consuming,” said Mann. “That includes a lot of meetings. It’s about explaining the same point of view to many listeners over and over again. It also means having to have these conversations. ”
- Chase Patterson, the CEO of The Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh and a Pitt alumnus said he believed activism is eternal.
“We always fight and therefore there will always be activism. It looks like it may look different after Destiny in terms of social media, but it’s forever. For those of us who think the fight will eventually be over, maybe not on that call, but in the world it won’t be, “Patterson said. “The lead was too big for us to imagine that the fight would soon be over.”
Activism will always exist, but participants expressed concerns about whether student activists should be compensated for their work. Pauline Long, a former AAAC president and current CEO of Long Information Systems, said she believes black student leaders deserve financial compensation from university, just like teaching assistants or working students.
She said for a long time can attest to this in person as a student activist working long hours in high school planning meetings, writing letters and informing the community about events.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of time, and yes, they should be paid. No minimum wage either, ”said Long.
Jonathan White, a Pitt alumnus and current assistant professor of history at Penn State’s Greater Allegheny campus, agreed with Long, but said student activists need encouragement from other students and faculties on campus in addition to compensation.
“They need money, but I think we have to make sure they get the support they need every day,” White said.
When asked by an international student in Brazil about campus initiatives to support and engage black international students, Porter said he thought pan-African thinking was an important consideration. Pan-Africanism, after Britannica, “the feeling that people of African descent have a lot in common is a fact that deserves attention and even celebration.”
As he helped establish what is now Pitt’s Africana Studies division, Porter said that he and Jack Daniel, another BAS founding member, included black voices from the Caribbean, West and East Africa, and Baltimore. He said they wanted to “diversify the perspective of what it means to be black on this planet”.
“I would like to see this ideology, this strategic perspective, this universal hodgepodge that includes all African people. I would like to see more thought and practice about what it means in the 21st century, ”Porter said. “I think this would be a very appropriate moment to bring up this issue of Pan-African thought, whatever it is called in the 21st century.”
White said that black people have had constant activism since the beginning of American history. He is excited to see what the younger generation will do to continue this legacy.
“This is what I look forward to when the younger generation tells our truth and realizes that there will always be oppression. But there is no point in African American and American history where blacks have not resisted, “White said. “There will be repression, but there will be resistance from those who want to see America the way it should be.”