Black Man's Think Tank asks 'Are you an activist or slacktivist?'

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. conducted the dialogue.
Junior Jamal Andress leads a discussion on racism and activism in the MU Student Center on Monday night. The Think Tank covered topics such as complacency to ignorance and suggested some possible solutions.

Growing complacency and a lack of activism within the student body were two of many issues addressed Monday at Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.’s discussion forum in response to the racist graffiti incident at Hatch.

The event is the first of several Black Man’s Think Tank forums to happen this semester and posed a single question: “Are you an ‘activist’ or a ‘slacktivist’?”

“We want to know why it takes an incident like this to spark outcry and debate,” said Kazi Ngwenyama, National Pan-Hellenic Council vice president and Alpha Phi Alpha president. “Why is there this sense of complacency within our generation with big issues and current issues?”

Ngwenyama said a lack of initiative existed within the student body, an issue heavily addressed at the forum.

“The community needs to be proactive before (something like the Hatch incident) happens again,” said Anthony Martin, former Legion of Black Collegians president and Alpha Phi Alpha member. “Yet, being proactive is tricky. It’s easier said than done. And if it were easy, there wouldn’t be racism to begin with.”

The forum placed heavy emphasis on the reemergence of activism and possible MU policies regarding sanctions concerning hate crimes. But activism at MU has become one-sided, Martin said.

“There are two forms of activism,” Martin said. “There’s political activism and radical activism. We’ve lost touch with the radical side. A radical standpoint needs to be created in junction with politics.”

Attendees of the forum discussed responsibilities of students and the administration to enact change. Martin said the burden of change rests evenly on all shoulders.

Junior Jessica Brown said students need to confront the administration directly as opposed to simply waiting for policies to pass.

“I don’t like this politics bullshit,” Brown said. “We need confrontation to create direct change. Issues need to get heard. Mizzou has this whole idea of ‘set in stone’ tradition. Are these repeated occurrences of racism a ‘set in stone’ tradition?”

Brown said individuals need to take more personal responsibility.

“We can’t just look to the same glorified leaders when we could create change ourselves,” Brown said. “I may not be a part of (the Missouri Students Association), but I can still educate people on what’s going on and what needs to be done.”

Increased education and heightened awareness within the community was a prominent topic of discussion during the forum. Brown said to inform is the most important step in creating change.

“This is what college is for,” Alpha Phi Alpha Secretary Jamal Andress said. “Students are supposed to be exposed to different races and sexualities. People need to get out of their shells and get into the community to see other things.”

Ngwenyama added that bringing about awareness only combats ignorance. But, Martin said the forum was only one step in a larger process.

“You can educate until you’re blue in the face,” Martin said. “But students need to make more effort and take more action aside from just talking. The forum’s not meant to be the last step. Something needs to be done as a result of the information gained.”

Yet, the underlying theme of the forum was an urge for proactive action, Ngwenyama said.

“The incident at Hatch was startling at first,” Ngwenyama said. “Stuff like this has happened before and we have a right to be disgusted. Yet if we get hurt, it only breaks us down, which is why we need to be proactive. There are two people in the world: people who do nothing, and people who want change.”

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