August 4, 2020

Town Hall Black Paper on Racial Justice - Hearing Students' Voices

A compilation of student voices collected by Dr. Rhianna C. Rogers and Dr. David Fullard


Introduction (by Dr. Rhianna C. Rogers)

This “Black Paper” is a compilation of student voices collected before and after the Presidential Town Hall on Racial Justice on June 17th, 2020i. Given multiple statements over the past few weeks related to the deaths of Black and Brown peoples, the disproportionately negative impacts on communities of color due to COVID-19, tensions rising with the Presidential election, and political, cultural, and social strife throughout the world, having the ability to understand ways to develop dialogue across cultural lines is not only necessary but critical in 21st century educational institutions.


As part of this conversation, students highlighted areas and their views on the current cultural climate of the U.S. and its relation to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The goal was for participants to discuss these topics and examine what it means to engage with administration, colleagues and the greater community in culturally competent ways. It is worth noting that this dialogue was just the beginning. The goal was not to solve or resolve a problem but rather to explore the most promising avenues for action to create a more just environment by directly engaging SUNY Empire community members who are affected by the specified topic of racial justice.

To frame this paper, I wanted to call back to a 2015 College wide Cultural Diversity and Equity Forum. As part of my framing speech, I read a quote from former FBI Director James B. Comey where he addressed the “hard truths” about policing, including his acknowledgment of racial bias among law enforcement officers and a “disconnect” between police agencies' interactions with communities of color. As Comey stated:

We are at a crossroads […] As a society, we can choose to live our lives every day, raising our families, going to work and hoping someone, somewhere will do something to ease the tension, to smooth over the conflict [. . .] Or we can choose instead to have an open and honest discussion about what our relationship is today […] “Much of our history is not pretty.” As Comey continued, “[a]t many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups” (Comey, 2015).

It is sad to say that five years later, we are still grappling with the same issues. Students then, and now, recognize the importance that diversity plays in education. Students from the 2015 Collegewide Cultural Diversity and Equity Forum noted the following:

Diversity is part of every aspect of my life. From family, friendships and co-workers. An open discussion in a safe environment to be "open" was refreshing and appreciated. (Anonymous Student Respondent, Buffalo Project 1.0 unpublished data, 2015).

It is important for everyone in higher education to realize the magnitude of issues, which are represented at campuses across the country...and not be afraid to speak out and address them. Never be afraid to have and use your voice for the betterment of those around you. (Anonymous Student Respondent, Buffalo Project 1.0 unpublished data, 2015).

Though many Buffalo Project responses supported racial equity on campus, there were students who vehemently opposed diversity of perspectives on campus. Below is one such example:

Ultra left wing politics, over focusing on differences and on being "PC", my race (White) being made something to be ashamed of, male bashing (I'm female by the way), revisionist history, shaming of people who are not feminist or who don't "toe the line" with current higher education schools of thought (men suck, especially White men, so-called "tolerance", and the navel-gazing "safe-space" and "trigger" warriors. (Anonymous Student Respondent, SurveyMonkey, Buffalo Project 2.0, 2018).

As a community, we need to create more brave and safe spaces to foster inclusive dialogues. Deliberative Conversations can help us root out these issues, listen to student voices, and create tangible actions to improve experience and develop real equity. In the sections below, you will hear directly from the students about their thoughts on this situation. The paper will end with a clear call to action and a few concluding thoughts.

Bethany Patterson, SUNY Empire State College WNY alumna ('20) and Spring 2020 Rockefellar Institute of Government - Center for Law & Policy Solutions Intern

For eight minutes and forty-six seconds, I sat back in agony as I helplessly watched George Floyd one of my own laying on the ground, being passionately murdered by a White police officer. I watched George Floyd be murdered on a camera phone, as three other police officers stood in silence, watching a grown man in pain say, “I can’t breathe.” These words will forever ring in my head. George Floyd, the moment the police saw him, he was no longer an activist in Texas or a loving father but looked upon as a criminal because he was Black.

As the officer pressed into the back of his neck more, I could not help, but think this could have been my father. My father could have been George Floyd, being pressed to the ground as he begs for his life in the most inhuman way. I work in the service industry and I am sure I have touched counterfeit money more than once in my life, but because society has deemed me “White” my life would have been spared. I heard a woman in my very own hometown say, “Why are we making a criminal into a hero?” This attitude speaks to the dangerous mindset so many Americans share in their own communities.

I grew up in Lockport, NY my entire life. I am multi-racial with a Black father and White mother, but society has labeled me White. I have encountered many instances of racism not for how I looked, but once it was understood my father was Black. My character and morals were often questioned, and I felt as if I was put into the “other” category. This has disheartened me because I have never viewed myself as White or Black. I have always looked at myself simply as just, “me.”

After watching the killing of George Floyd on television, a realization was made, that the place I call my hometown, is still segregated today. In Lockport, NY, racism is still a debate if it even exists. The community that so welcomes me, has never welcomed a Black male teacher, a Black police officer, a Black doctor, or a Black attorney. How can young Black men and women live in a community and be told to do better, where there is no example? From the age of 5 to the age of 18 the mandated New York State curriculum never mentioned Black codes, Redlining, or Vagrant Laws. How could a system forget to honor enslaved Black men and women who built this country and yet call Black people lazy? Vagrant laws made it okay to arrest a Black person for not having a job after just being granted “freedom.” Our textbooks never explained the real reason Blacks could not vote. I guess the page about Poll taxes got misplaced. Blacks had no money but had to pay a tax to vote. It was illegal for an enslaved person to learn to read, yet literacy was a requirement to vote. This is a very small example of how racism has been embedded in society. We are not taught the ignorance behind the laws. The vast amount of knowledge I have inquired since the death of George Floyd has frustrated me to the core. I feel as if I have been cheated on. I have only learned half of my history while in school. The other half was purposely covered up, so Blacks in my opinion could continue to suffer. Knowledge is power. By not giving a population their true history, they cannot rise up. This is no longer the case. Racism is like a moving sidewalk. So if you don’t do anything about it, you are just part of the problem.

Chevar Francis, SUNY Empire State College NYC student and member of the Black Male Initiative

What does racialized justice means to you?

  • Seeing more representation in the education field
  • Allowed to be human and not a sterotype

Carly Van Syckle, University at Albany student, Buffalo Project RA, and Spring 2020 Rockefeller Institute of Government – Center for Law & Policy Solutions intern

"What Does Racial Justice mean to me?

I think that we should look at this movement where EVERYONE can be a part of the solution. At home through having conversations with your friends and family, through ongoing education. In government through elections, voting, and petitioning. In business through marketing and media. And in education.

One of the most important aspects of racial justice to me is education equity. Miseducation starts long before the level that we are at now. When I refer to miseducation, I am speaking on the lack of education, the lack of resources, and the inequity that is present within public schools throughout the country. From the minute we step into elementary school; we are often taught Black history through the wrong lens. We get one lesson on one day a year on the Triangular Trade and during Black History Month a poster of MLK Jr. or Rosa Parks is put up just to be taken down a month later. Important people such as Malcolm X., Dorothy Height, Shirley Chisholm, Huey P. Newton, and others are left out of our curriculum. Events such as Dred Scott v. Sanford, Plessy v. Ferguson, the Scottsboro Boys, and Brown v. Board of Education, and the War on Drugs are left out. I am working on a project of an infographic-like “book” of a timeline of events and important people in Black history. My hope is that even if I can distribute this project to only my friends and family that they will better understand why this is happening.

Introducing cultural competency into education at an early age is also crucial. As well as what they are taught, we also need to address how children are taught, the disparities in public schools and the inequity that can contribute to things such as the school-to-prison pipeline where Black and Latino students are suspended, expelled, and involved in in-school arrests more often than white students (and often for nonviolent behavior related offenses) which leads to students who have been suspended or expelled being 3x more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system.

Moving on to what SUNY and other universities can do is to clearly and explicitly express solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. It is not enough to say, “We strive to embrace diversity on our campuses” or something that tiptoes around the movement. It is impactful to fully state that SUNY campuses are allies and are safe-spaces for students. Another issue that has come to light is the “protection” of students hate speech online. SUNY students who post hateful pictures or messages on their social media (for example, two University at Albany students who drew swastikas on their bodies and another student who posted a message degrading Black students) are not addressed correctly by the school. By letting this behavior continue without consequences, other students feel unsafe. Taking a course on diversity and cultural competency should be required of all SUNY students within their first two years.

I also believe that post-secondary institutions can have a significant impact on the issues I previously mentioned within primary and secondary schools. Creating partnerships with local schools can prove useful for both the younger and older students through providing mentors, guest lectures, and allowing SUNY to impact their communities as well as their own students.

As we know, the United States prison system disproportionately affects people of color. One specific action that SUNY can take is to establish partnerships with state prisons to provide in-person education to incarcerated individuals with options to complete degrees while incarcerated and to continue their education following their release.

(Although this may not be the place to speak on this topic, one thing that I want to work on or address in the future is bringing Hispanics into this conversation. I have experienced many of my Hispanic friends and family members “sitting out” on this conversation because they think that it is not their place to speak on the topic or because they hold the belief that since they can relate to oppression, they don’t need to speak out. There is a false belief within the white community that clumps all people of color together and using that logic, they think that Hispanics (or other minorities) cannot have racist ideas or beliefs- this is a dangerous assumption that also needs to be addressed).

Larry Johnson, SUNY Empire State College NYC student and President of the Black Male Initiative

Racial Justice is conversation.

Racial Justice is not only listening, but also hearing.

Racial Justice, at the moment, cannot and should not be diluted with everyone else’s issues for then, we are defeated before we even start.

Until there is a conversation with concrete planning, we will continue to see what we have been witnessing with far worse results.

If this nation is to grow, then dialogue is a MUST in order to move forward...

The slavery issue must be addressed. Black people are still dealing with the effects of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) and being wronged by descendants of people whose ancestors wronged ours. At some point soon, there must be discussions about monetary compensation.

There needs to be a curriculum that tells ALL of this country's history, especially the ugly parts. This will not absolve everything and everyone... but it is a start. The truth must be told.

We must do better.

It is my fervent hope that this town hall meeting is the beginning of real change and not just the “efforts” of change. I pledge to do what I can within my power and beyond.

Thank You.

Sophia Jones, SUNY Empire State College Alumna

Diversity and Engagement

  • Ensures SUNY achieves Diversity & Black Students Objectives
  • Recruits, Hires, Trains, Develops, Advances Diverse & Black Professors (working w/HR)
    • Establishes Recruiting Strategy for POC Professors
  • Oversees SUNY Diversity SRGs; “Dean of SRGs” (Student Resource Groups and Dean of Student Resource Groups)
  • Establishes & Maintains SUNY Diversity / Black Associate Directory
  • Ensures Fair Representation During People Planning; Achieves Black Managerial Targets
  • Spearheads D&E Training for All Professors & Administrators
  • Ensures Diverse & Black-owned Suppliers are leveraged throughout SUNY Campuses / Functional Areas
  • Creates & Maintains Supplier Diversity Directory by Function
  • Identifies, Invests & Works with Strategic Small Business Owners to Advance Their Business Initiatives:
    • Art
    • Science
    • Technology
    • Music
    • Education
    • Sports
  • Allocates Appropriate Level of Resources (Staff / Budget) to Drive Diversity & Equality Agenda
  • Scorecards & Actions Gaps vs. Targets
  • Identifies & Works with National Strategic Partners Throughout SUNY Communities (Nat’l Urban League, NAACP, Charitable Organizations)
  • Leverages National Relationships for Recruiting & Workforce Development Purposes
  • Sponsors Community Initiatives that Further Promotes SUNY’s D&E Agenda
  • Produces Quarterly Internal Newsletter Highlighting Community Engagement & Achievements
  • Grows SUNY Presence in Diverse Markets / Zip Codes
  • Scorecards & Conducts Post Campaign Analysis. Actions Gaps vs. Targets (ROI)

Sule Thompson, SUNY Empire State College NYC student and member of the Black Male Initiative

In our discussion of racial justice and what that means to me, I want to touch on "The Exceptional Negro" syndrome. This syndrome creates a separation of everyday hard-working Black people who have not gone on to higher education and may not be accomplished in their careers as opposed to Black people who are accomplished and have graduated from prestigious higher learning institutions setting the latter as "the exceptional negro" if you will. This syndrome separates the "exceptional negro" from the automation of connecting depravity, criminality, violence, deceit and the innate lack of a moral compass and all of the other countless adjectives that are attached to Black people not just here in the states but globally and gives an allowance for a disconnect to our humanness and validity to our experiences. It has an anesthetic effect on white people giving them permission to fractionate our people into different classes of not just "exceptional Negros" but also "acceptable Negros" this allowance creates indifference to the quality and conditions that Black people have been forced to live under globally and is used as a determination of who is worthy of rights, respect, dignity, the ability just to draw breath and therefore ultimately life. As a performer who has traveled the world singing, I have come face to face with this affliction that is rampant among white people in America and other countries where I have been told that "there's something different about you", "you're so clean, well put together and speak so well" etc. as if these things were beyond my reach and the fact that I could muster up such traits that I was somehow excluded or separate from other Black people.

What racial justice means to me would be to do a complete and utter eradication of this "exceptional negro" syndrome and understanding that unequivocally all Black lives matter no matter what their station in life may be. Police brutality, shootings and murders at the hands of police officers are not the only things that take the breath out of Black people. The systematic and institutional racism that plagues Black people globally can no longer stand and continue to keep a knee on the necks of Black people. I have always been a firm believer that representation means everything and we must have equitable representation in education, especially higher education for example, as a member of Empire State College I can count on one hand the number of Black professors male and female that I have encountered or have knowledge of and I’m sure if I took a look at the administration and leadership of Empire State College that number would decrease or remain the same. We need equitable funding for programs, recruitment, administration, presenters, guest speakers, performers, lecturers, and tenured professors at Empire State College and all institutions of higher learning. The “veiled” open doors albeit littered with snares, red tape, double talk and double standards for Black people in industries such as criminal justice where 95% of prosecutors are white and only 7.5% of judges are Black, Asian or other ethnic groups, is a major part of the issue. We must have representation in finance, banking, housing, economics, business, healthcare / mental healthcare, technology also property/homeownership, building suburban communities, and much more which time will not permit me to list. These doors do not need to be swung open. These doors must be taken off the hinges to allow true equitable opportunities, treatment, and representation for Black people and not just the "exceptional Negro" but for all Black people around the world.

Concerning racial justice, I would like to touch on matters regarding:

  1. Systemic racism in education
  2. Economics
  3. Finances
  4. Business
  5. Legislation
  6. Housing
  7. Technology
  8. Healthcare / Mental Health
  9. Along with the above bullet points representation in faculty of Empire State College and all colleges/universities, student body, equitable funding for programs, recruitment, administration, presenters, guest speakers, performers, lecturers and tenured professors etc.
  10. Within the Criminal Justice System 95% of prosecutors are white, of all judges only 7.4 judges are of Asian, Black, mixed, or other ethnic groups 11) De-militarizing the police 12) I will reference attorney Traci Ellis Ted Talk presentation of the "Exceptional Negro, Fighting to Be Seen in a Colorblind World" ...until white America and "others" globally who have oppressed, murdered, raped etc. Africans, African Americans and those of African descent globally can inquire into the truth of our experiences and not only value the lives of the "exceptional negro" and come to terms with the fact that no matter what our station in life is, all of our lives matter and they can humanize our experiences then there will be no true effective change.

Nan Mead, SUNY Empire State College graduate student, The Buffalo Project Lead Research Associate, and member of the Student Affairs Committee
We at SUNY Empire comprise a community of scholars. Many of us self-identify as lifelong learners. We are intellectually curious; it is what we all have in common. As a woman of color, I address our prospective White allies this evening with a plea and a challenge. The plea is that you, as allies, help to put us on a path toward racial justice. The challenge is that you engage in discovery and reflection.

New York is a place where the peoples of the world converge in search of opportunity. Yet anti-Black racism exists across the country and in many parts of the world. People bring their biases with them when they come here.

Regardless of where you are from, across the country or the other side of the world, I challenge you to get to know and understand American history from the perspectives of African-Americans and other marginalized peoples. On its own, New York has a complicated history with the slave trade as a financing center for slave labor and for trading the commodities associated with slave labor. We all must confront the fact that many of our founding fathers and early great political leaders were connected to the slave trade, and that many monuments, places, buildings and schools bear their names to this day. Columbia and CUNY have produced research along these lines. I encourage you to learn more about the following:

  • The 1921 Tulsa Massacre in Oklahoma, and the 1923 Rosewood Massacre in Florida, where entire communities of color were destroyed – and the impact of the transgenerational trauma this has conferred upon the descendants of the survivors;
  • that Oregon was admitted to the Union in 1859 as a Whites-only state;
  • the 1963 bombing and murder of four African-American girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama;
  • that as late as 1967, 1/3 the states in this country had laws on their books prohibiting Blacks from marrying Whites;
  • the U.S. Department of Justice report on the 2015 investigation of the Ferguson, MO, police department that concluded a “pattern of practice and unlawful conduct” against its Black citizens in violation of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
  • that today marks the 5th anniversary of the 2015 murders of nine parishioners Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, by a White supremacist looking to start a race war;
  • the 13th Amendment and its relationship to the modern prison industrial complex.
  • that the ‘Black section of town’ anywhere likely exists because of the legacy of redlining; that landlords even today engage in racist practices and that banks engage in predatory lending practices; and that segregated schools exist as a direct result of segregated neighborhoods.

These facts amount to more than a string of coincidences.

Jawana Richardson, SUNY Empire State College NYC student and member of the Black Male Initiative

Ultimately, we need to see more DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION.

In the meantime, my suggestion is until such time that we can hire more diverse faculty members is to implement a diverse population of students and alumni peer advisers, mentors, coaches etc. These can be students (or recent grads. alumni) who are in the communities that need them most, who know their way around the college and who can be a resource to students who are struggling to navigate through college bureaucracy.

Many students (especially in our Black and Latino communities) often give up before they can even realize their higher learning potential and all that they are capable of achieving. Oftentimes in Black and Brown communities we are prideful and don't want to ask for much needed help, dropping out without receiving their return of the investment. Having another student who has "been there/done that" who can listen, relate, share experiences and guide can significantly help fellow students succeed while taking some of the burden off of overworked and over extended primary mentors.

Black and Latino faculty members are scarce and few and far in between in our college. We can start by setting up a Student Alumni Peer Advisor program to help fellow students succeed, and work towards increasing our student retention success rate. I also feel for this trial program that there would need to be some sort of metrics/ measures put in place and an incentive to those advisors whose students are successful.

Again, this is a suggestion for a fix for a diverse support base for our student capital (with the main objective to attain more diversity in our college's leadership, faculty, and administration roles).

Asia Moore, SUNY Empire State College Graduate Student

What I would view as racial justice at SUNY Empire would be to begin an annual mandate for staff and faculty to be provided a training on diversity and inclusion, by an outside source to ensure they are able to reach and meet the needs of the oppressed population they serve.


Creating a program that helps people of color navigate to thrive in an institution that has many opportunities that people of color don’t partake in. Finding new ways to reach out to this population with the help of training. To not pity the oppressed but uplift and guide them through their SUNY Empire State experiences.

What does racialized justice mean to you?

  1. Opportunities - Having equal access to employment and leadership opportunities within the institution, that can enhance a student of color’s skill sets to become an asset to their future endeavors.
  2. Accessibility - Resources from culturally competent faculty and staff to help them navigate through the roadblocks people of color face. To not assume each student has access to all resources they need.
  3. Accountability - Making faculty, staff and the institution completely accountable for the lack of knowledge of the oppressed population they serve. It would be a requirement for the above mentioned to have annual trainings and resources provided to keep their credentials up to date to be competent, socially and culturally with the oppressed group.
  4. Education = Privilege - Many students who are of color are first generation higher-level education attendees. They do not possess the skills nor the knowledge to successfully navigate through an institution like SUNY Empire or any college institution. As an institution that formulates their mission on “student success”, we are doing a disfavor not having a program that provides new and prospective students of color with a more strategic admission process, to ensure they have all the tools needed to build a better future for themselves, and most importantly their family.

Albert Culler, SUNY Empire State College NYC student and member of the Black Male Initiative
One definition of the word “justice” is the quality of being fair and reasonable.

For far too long, Blacks and other marginalized groups have demanded to be given the same opportunities that are customarily afforded to whites - nothing more.

The demands seem to have fallen on deaf ears. A few irrational individuals would say that people of color are treated fairly.

In recent times, the horrific tales of abuse that Blacks have long complained about have been broadcast for the world to see. Many who have not endured the unfair treatment that Blacks face may have doubted the validity of the tales of abuse. However, with the repeated examples broadcast for the world to see, it can no longer be denied and ignored.

Since slavery, Blacks have had to develop a coping mechanism to be able to function in this unjust society. We have come to expect, and at times accept, the abuses inflicted upon us. Some of us have adopted a “That’s just the way it is” attitude.

There are a lot of things going on to give us some optimism in recent times. Today the two police officers were charged with murder in Atlanta, GA. Governor Cuomo announced that Juneteenth would be recognized as a state holiday.

We are also skeptical of some of the “white allies” who claim to get it. Too often, they conveniently show up on your side.

An example: The NYPD lieutenant who knelt with the protesters and then a few days later apologized to his fellow officers - these are things that feed that skepticism that we have. There are many movements to ending racial discrimination, with some successes, that are almost always followed by some regression and a return to business as usual.

This response is unlike any I have seen before. So, I do hold some optimism.

However, there is also an air that this allegiance, this comradery that we see now is almost like a fad, or it’s the ‘in’ thing to do. Many organizations have issued statements denouncing the high-profile murders of Blacks. I also have doubts on the motivations to issuing of these statements. I have no doubt that the root of cooperation is economics.

To be an ally or a supporter you must have a clear understanding of the issues and desired outcomes. So, let me be clear: when we say Black Lives Matter, I want you to clearly understand what we ask.

We want to see an end to systematic racism in employment, education, housing, as well as an end to police brutality and the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people.

We’re not asking for favors, or any special accommodations, just our civil liberties, our basic human rights in all things and the rights that are afforded to all people regardless of race, color or creed. We’re not asking for anything special or any undue privilege. Only the simple desire to be dealt with equally – as if we matter.

We achieve racial equity when race no longer determines one’s socioeconomic outcomes; when everyone has everything, they need to thrive no matter where they live.

We achieve racial equity when people of color are owners, planners, decision makers in the systems that govern our lives.

That’s all we want. Thank you.

Liza Rochelson, SUNY Empire State College Syracuse student, SAC Central New York Representative and Connects Steering Committee Student Representative

What does racialized justice mean to you?

I just don’t understand humanity…how is it we so brutally hurt each other? Physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are all the children of one incredible creator who has placed us on this beautiful earth to work together to repair the inequities and treat each other as the honorable souls that we are…each of us, every single human person that resides on our mother earth. It does not matter what your skin color is, what color your hair, your eyes, your shirt…we are one humanity. We are unique, each of us and contribute to the most beautiful and magnificent whole…a tapestry of humanity composed of color, energy, faith, beauty, growth and coexistence. We are here to help our brothers and sisters. And we are ALL brothers and sisters. I am ashamed and saddened by our behaviors, our lack of tolerance, our finger pointing, our xenophobia.

It is not just people of color…there are Jewish people too that are hated for no other reason than that they are Jewish. I am afraid. I had a conversation recently with a man who is incensed at what is going on and his thoughts when I asked him…”It is the Jews.” he said, not knowing that I, myself am Jewish and a daughter of a child Holocaust survivor who perished in the pandemic. Not only did my 87-year-old father, a child Holocaust survivor die of COVID, he had Alzheimer’s Disease and relived his horrific childhood experiences a second time, because when you have Alzheimer’s you relive your childhood. Yes, my dad, whose father and grandfather were killed by the Nazi’s and whose two sisters Anna and Ella died in Auschwitz, died alone in a nursing home in April. How is that for injustice???

My conversation with the man continued, and he went on to say that only two percent of the country is Jewish and yet 8-10% of senators are Jewish and they hold all the power. He said the answer is in giving people of color more power, but he can’t see how that will happen because the Jews have the wealth which controls the power. Was I in Nazi Germany that morning on my phone call?

How was I supposed to respond to a man who is Black and comes from generations of oppression by our people? Can’t he see that we too are hated??

Stop. Wait.

The answer in healing the world does not lie in transferring hatred from one group of people to another…

The answer lies within each one of us and our actions and treatment of each human being we encounter, providing respect, honor, dignity and working together to fix our world’s wrongs.

The pandemic was frightening, but this, this xenophobia is beyond my comprehension.

From the ADL - Anti-Defamation League - During the Civil Rights era, Rabbi Abraham Heschel joined Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery. Rabbi Heschel said afterward, “I prayed with my feet.” We as individuals and communities continue their march today.ii

Mike Rock, SUNY Empire State College NYC student and member of the Black Male Initiative
In his speech, Trump did not address the racism issue directly. Instead, he suggested the repeated instances of officers killing unarmed Black Americans rested on a small number of individual officers.

"They're very tiny. I use the word tiny," he said. "It's a very small percentage. But nobody wants to get rid of them more than the really good and great police officers." Trump said in his speech that under his executive order "chokeholds will be banned, except when an officer's life is at risk," though only those police departments that choose to get certified would have to comply with that standard.

Racial Justice - (Questioning the part of speech) Is this adjunct? attributive? adjectival nouns or noun

Collective Liberation + Reparations = Action

Collective Liberation (Wealth Gap)

Collective liberation means recognizing that all of our struggles are intimately connected, and that we must work together to create the kind of world we know is.

Supporting data

Estimated Repatriation – [from my experiences here is] How to Launch a New Insurance Product

  1. Analyze market.
  2. Get a company license.
  3. Develop a product and pricing.
  4. Review compliance.
  5. Perform state filing.

Black reparations and the racial wealth gap

Sammie Maitland, SUNY Empire Student – NYC (Online), SAC Co-Chair, and Buffalo Project RA

Every student before me just iterated the truth. Truth is justice. Racial justice is truth. We must hold firm to the truth, which is our convictions deep within ourselves on what is right and what is wrong.

The strength of shared truth gives us the force to propel forward commitments of change sustaining actions today for a more equitable tomorrow.

Truth is the foundation for reconciliation.

Truth is necessary for us to meet eye to eye and acknowledge our shared responsibility for the future.

Unity is shared truth and we must possess united sight to collaborate on a vision for our climate.

How we handle the reckoning of racism today will have a direct impact on our ability to mitigate climate change tomorrow.

How can we create programming that encourages such pluralization and contributes to the diversification of voice? I would like to pull from my best practices from the Buffalo Project as one example:

  1. Improve the mentoring process: Require mentor trainings that take into account DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), empower students to change mentors, create a survey to examine the interests and concerns of students when entering the mentoring process;
  2. Create a Student Government with a focus on DEI;
  3. Develop more brave and safe spaces for constituents to voice their opinions, concerns, and to develop ideas (Deliberative Conversations, Diversity clubs, and others);
  4. Diversify administration, faculty and staff to reflect the student body;
  5. Students of Color Peer Mentoring Program - Many students (especially in our Black and Latino communities) often give up before they can even realize their higher learning potential and all that they are capable of achieving. Oftentimes in Black and Brown communities we are prideful and don't want to ask for much needed help, dropping out without receiving their return of the investment. Having another student who has "been there/done that" who can listen, relate, share experiences and provide guidance can significantly help fellow students succeed while taking some of the burden off overworked and over extended primary mentors.
  6. Recommend continued funding and ongoing support of the SUNY Empire Emergency Fund so that students faced with hardships related to technology and other resources may apply for college supports - The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color in terms of both illness and loss of employment. Campus closures have shed light on the fact that many students lack access to educational technology off-campus. This presents long-term challenges to the College in providing SUNY Empire students with equitable access to learning opportunities. Ongoing access to funding is consistent with similar initiatives within the CUNY system as well as independent colleges such as NYU and Fordham;
  7. Engage in meaningful dialogues and create a plan of action to make real change (see attached 6.29.2020 Presidential Memorandum)

Conclusion (by Dr. Rhianna C. Rogers)
It is the responsibility of institutions of higher education to prepare their campuses to produce successful graduates and culturally competent members of the 21st century globalized community and workforce. Yet “The Buffalo Project” survey data (2010-2020) of students’ attitudes toward culture and inclusivity compiled indicates that there is more work to be done. SUNY Empire’s creation and support of the DEI Council, PRODiGY initiatives, the Racialized Faculty Caucus, and, more recently President Malatras’ move to create the Shirley Chisholm Center, an EOP program, and the Presidential Diversity Taskforce are all moves in the right direction, but more needs to be done. We need to do better.

There are many who are facing similar experiences in silence. We, as an institution, need to recognize these issues and work to find ways to make the learn experience better for all. As an international K-12 colleague of mine, Aimee Skidmore, posted a few weeks ago on LinkedIn:

…it isn’t enough to be ‘not racist’ and silent but rather I acknowledge that we must be actively anti-racist if we are to bring necessary change. I speak from the privileged position as a White educator in a private school, but I am not so naïve to think that prejudice doesn’t exist here. It does. Our lovely students are taught to be polite and compliant and perhaps their social class dampens the outrage they feel about inequity. I once was a public-school teacher in Maryland and I saw how desperately we needed to rid our schools of the institutionalized racism. We didn’t do enough then. But today is a new day. As with the COVID-19 global health crisis, out of disruption comes opportunity for reflection and change. There is HOPE in the actions taken by these citizens. From my place of privilege comes the power to make a difference. Myself, I am starting today with reexamining my practices and texts. (Skidmore, LinkedIn, 2020).

As in “The Buffalo Project,” the development of more data-driven, participatory action research projects across U.S. campuses can offer one way to re-envision appropriate responses to building more inclusive and welcoming learning communities. By doing so, institutions can raise the educational attainment of diverse student populations and increase institutional retention rates, ultimately empowering individuals to impact their own communities. In light of recent events and students’ comments above, we need to reconsider some of the ways we think about and talk about people in order to develop a safe climate for all of our students, staff, faculty, and administrators. As the examples above indicated, as members of Higher Education, we have the power to affect communities in and out of the academic framework. As eloquently articulated by DEI scholar D.M. Williams:

The very presence of individuals from different backgrounds result in diversity. Climate, on the other hand, refers to the experience of individuals and groups…In a healthy climate, individuals and groups generally feel welcomed, respected, and valued. A healthy climate is grounded in respect for others, nurtured by dialogue between those of different perspectives, and is evidenced by a pattern of civil interactions among community members. […] Not all aspects of a healthy climate necessarily feel positive - indeed, uncomfortable or challenging situations can lead to increased awareness, understanding, and appreciation. Tension, while not always positive, can be healthy when handled appropriately (Williams, 2010).

Therefore, we must acknowledge that being uncomfortable for some may led to acceptance and cross-cultural understanding for others. By creating healthy spaces for dialogue, individuals or groups who feel isolated, marginalized, and even unsafe are given voice.

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i - To view the Presidential Town Hall recording in its entirely, please email to request a digital copy.
ii - Resources: ADL - We stand in solidarity with the Black community who is yet again subject to pain and suffering at the hands of a racist and unjust system.



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