Speak Week event fights stereotypes about blacks

Matthew Stottlemyre

To unify the black community on campus, students need to take the time to get to know individuals, rather than make assumptions based on stereotypes, said education senior Cierra Campbell.

Campbell was a panelist at the Black Student Alliance’s Speak Week event Wednesday night. The event, Things You Want to Ask but Can’t, allowed students to ask questions of a panel of representatives from different social groups within the black student community.

“You should take your responsibility to get to know that person before you make assumptions because you don’t know their story,” Campbell said.

The alliance’s faculty advisor, Kyle Clark, said Wednesday’s event was planned to break up the more serious topics covered at other Speak Week events this year. Monday’s panel discussion addressed suicide in the black community and Wednesday’s focused on gender roles.

“Today is supposed to be more lighthearted and let them talk about things they wouldn’t normally talk about,” Clark said.

Students submitted questions in advance at the alliance’s publicity table in Jester Center, and the panel took questions from the audience of more than 80 packed into a classroom in the Jackson Geological Sciences Building.

Jasmine Kyles, the alliance’s freshman action team chairwoman and a journalism sophomore, said the group hosts Speak Week to bring the black community together and to address a history of black students not interacting with one another. Kyles said in the past black students tended to avoid each other because stereotypes and ignorance led them to look down on each other. She said Wednesday’s event aimed to bridge the gap between different groups within the black community.

“Just by being here we’re taking the first step to unifying the black community, which is understanding different social groups,” Kyles said.

In response to an anonymous advance question about perceptions of athletes as egotistical, Cokie Reed, a communications sophomore and UT basketball player on the panel, said she hopes the black community in general and black athletes can gain a better understanding of each other.

“I wanted to be part of [Black Student Alliance] because I wanted to be part of the black community at UT, not just some stuck-up athlete,” Reed said. “My goal is to combine the black community and black athletes and become a unified community.”