Panel addresses important social issues

By Life Editor Melissa Parker

Racism. Reverse racism. Prejudice against gay marriage. These are just a few of the issues the “Let’s Talk Honestly about Racism” panel will cover at Say Something’s Feb. 18 discussion.

The event takes place at the end. theatre on Pine Street beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The goal of panel discussions like this is to open people to honest conversation and healthy communication, said Say Something founder Camille Bennett.

“(It’s about) getting people to actually use their voices and talk about how they feel no matter what their opinion is and know it’s a safe space and no matter what they will be respected,” she said.

The panel will consist of eight individuals from diverse backgrounds with different perspectives, Bennett said.

Panelists include Assistant Professor of History Ansley Quiros, founder of Safer Birth in Bama Jessica Thompson, social activists and local event planners Titus and Tyree Busbee, licensed mental health professional Alicia Kelly, president of the Fringe Foundation Diana Bellonby, retired UNA secondary education Professor Felize Green and Sociology Professor Andrea Hunt.

Hunt said she met Bennett at another campus event and discovered they have the same community development goals in mind.

“I’m always very supportive of any opportunity that we can get in the community to have some productive dialogue around issues of inequality,” she said. “So this was something I definitely wanted to be involved in.”

Say Something’s mission statement is to unify, heal, educate and empower the community to realize social justice through nonviolent communication about racism, Bennett said.

For the panel, Bennett said she comes up with approximately five thought-provoking questions from current events, social media and topics she has researched.

Some of the topics for the upcoming panel may include Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance and the effects of President Obama’s re-election on racism.

It has to start somewhere, said freshman Ciara Booker.

“People have to talk things out to get problems solved,” she said. “If you’re in a safe place and feel comfortable to speak, a lot thing will be said. I think it’s great.”

There are often misconceptions about what a panel like this is, Bennett said.

People may think they are walking into a room of “angry black people,” when in reality the diverse audience participates in a civil discussion.

It will broaden other people’s views, said sophomore Kellen Mataafa.

“I think it will benefit people who might be close minded or ignorant to other peoples experiences,” he said.

Say Something held a similar panel in November, and Bennett said she feels it went well.

Quiros was part of the November panel and offered history and facts, Bennett said.

Kelly provided a mental health perspective and taught how to address issues effectively, Bennett said.

Other members of November’s panel included Titus Busbee who offered a more radical opinion, and Bellonby who spoke of white privilege, white guilt and the fragility of white American culture, she said.

Green is going to provide a historical perspective to the upcoming panel, Bennett said.

“She educated herself through segregation and emancipated herself from the walls of segregation,” she said.

Hunt said she wants to share what it means to be an ally who supports but does not take over.

“I’m excited to be a part of something where we can start beginning to have a dialogue about these issues,” she said. “I see in my classes that students want to talk about these things, but they just don’t know how to.”

Having opportunities to learn from people who are different and learning to have a productive conversation about prominent issues is beneficial to everyone, she said.