ASA tries to break down cultural divide

ASA Martin Luther King Day panel

During the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, Eastern Michigan University hosted 13 academic programs, many of which were LBC-approved.

The African Student Association hosted its first academic program Monday afternoon, titled “The African/African-American Divide.” The program was a panel lead discussion about breaking the barrier between the African and African-American cultures.

“This event was designed to start a conversation people don’t usually have. We want to hear what people have to say,” said Daniel Mpano, ASA Treasurer and junior at EMU.

The panelists leading the conversation were Phillip Elugbemi, a senior biology major; Michael Wood, a junior English secondary education major; Krystal Bush, a senior apparel textiles and merchandising major; Durrell Jamerson-Barnes, a senior communications major; and Victor Okafor, a professor in the Africology and African-American Studies department.

Starting out the program, ASA President Stephen Elugbemi asked for the participants to split the room between those students who identify as African and those who do not. By doing this he opened the floor to discuss why some students identified as African and why others did not.

The discussion then moved to discussing stereotypes associated with the different communities of Africans and African-Americans, both positive and negative.

“Step one is to acknowledge the issue and create steps to fix it,” Elugbemi said.

After the panelists gave examples of stereotypes they have known or were raised to believe, the discussion opened up to the audience expressing similar stereotypes.

“We have to be careful about the generalizations we make,” Okafor said.

Following the discussion on stereotypes, the discussion shifted to ways to get rid of those preconceived ideas and solutions to the problem.

The audience and panelists concluded by stating the best solution is networking with those of different cultures, backgrounds and educations. There is power in knowledge and educating yourself on what you do not know.

“I like that this [event] allowed people to speak, I heard things I hadn’t heard before,” said AJ Ekokobe.

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