After Time Magazine released their person of the year issue featuring the silence breakers, and the coverage of the #MeToo movement, I immediately knew this was the way I wanted to start this year’s Brain Food series. Sexual assaults and harassments on college campuses have been in the news for years, and has gotten more attention. Many campuses have hired full time Title IX directors (we have, even as a small university).
But we have to provide continuous education on this topic. In January we hosted Gabrielle Union, who has been an advocate for survivors as she has spoken openly about her sexual assault and has discussed in her recent book. But I wanted to make a statement. So on the 2nd day of classes we hosted Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement.
Her story was familiar to me — growing up in the South, aware of her culture as a young woman. I resonated as she mentioned Dr. Joh n Henrik Clarke and Dr. Ben, and that her grandfather was a Garveyite (I think every black college student should read “Message to the People” like I did as an undergraduate).
She then moved to her main point. We organized around the Central Park 5, and police brutality, and racism as a whole. But sexual assault is the one issue we have not organized around in our community. Think about it? How many of us participate in Take Back the Night? Dillard has had a long history of participating here in New Orleans but the majority of participants are women.
So this was her cause to lead. She said the media makes headlines, not movements. And she challenged us to address this issue robustly. She said that community healing happens in a community, and that an HBCU is a community. So she challenged us to host community conversations, places where men and women can openly and honestly express their concerns in order to solve these issues.
I challenged our student organizations (and will continue to do so) to each host some kind of conversations. They can pair up in many ways: SGA and activities board. Fraternity and sorority. Residence halls. These are important issues that have to be solved on the ground.
And while I take pride in this next statement, it is also an indictment. Tarana shared that Dillard was the first HBCU to invite her to speak. She is an Alabama State grad and spoke there earlier this year, but she said she invited herself. My commitment is to help her organize a spring 2019 HBCU tour because on campuses where 2/3 of our students our women, we have to have these conversations.
We’ve got work to do.