Last Thursday, Douglas Blackmon, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Slavery by Another Name, visited SUNY Oswego and gave a lecture to an auditorium filled with students, professors and Oswego residents as apart of the schools “Race, Place, Being” event.
This event, spanning the course of the entire semester, is designed to help foster cultural equality among the Oswego community. Prior to his lecture, a screening of his PBS documentary of the same name, of which Blackmon was the executive producer, was shown in the auditorium.
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Blackmon’s lecture told his story about how he feels that slavery has not ended, just evolved.
Blackmon posed to the audience: “What is the America we want to live in? And if it’s not this one, how do we change it?”
He stressed the idea of slavery changing into racism. How, although blacks are no longer enslaved, they are still not treated equally. Not in the post Civil War era, and not now. He finished his speech by urging listeners to be the change they want to see in the world.
“You have to pick the future you want to live in. And then engage in it,” Blackmon said.
Student reaction to the event was very positive. “Race, Place, Being” is designed to educate students on the affect racism can have on others, and how race relations can be improved.
“Students will hopefully grow from this and learn about the struggles of other cultures and really learn how to be aware and adapt their ways of life to respecting everybody on this campus equally,” Oswego junior Rob Hackford said.
Students have also said they enjoy events like these and want to see them more often.
“I definitely think [events like these] educate our student body more which means the more we know about this the more we can understand it and move forward as a society and as a school,” student Lauren Toscano said. “I think programs like this are very beneficial and should continue to happen throughout the year.”
“(The event) brings awareness to things you don’t usually learn about in the textbook, and I feel that I’ve been misinformed,” senior Marissa Sarbak said. “It’s great that Douglas Blackmon can come here and we can learn and listen to this and it just gives you more perspective on history.”
During Blackmon’s question and answer session, someone asked him when he thinks race relations will no longer be an issue.
“We’re going to stop talking about this when all of us are light brown,” Blackmon said.
His comment was followed by a standing ovation.
Below is an interview with SA Director of Civic Engagement Christopher Collins-McNeil.