National news creates local dialogue

On Monday April 2, McInnis auditorium was packed with students, faculty and community members who listened intently as a paneled forum discussed the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin case: what it meant for them and for the rest of the world.

It was not the first time such a forum has taken place, and the Multicultural Advisory Awareness Committee utilized the format to promote dialogue regarding the recent Trayvon Martin case. Topics explored on Monday included, “How can we apply classroom principles to social justice issues?” and, “How do I become more Christ-like in my response to social justice issues?”

The discussion forum was organized by senior Lauren Haskell who thought the topic was particularly relevant to the Eastern community because of its motto “Faith, Reason and Justice.” Haskell was shocked when she first heard the story of Trayvon Martin’s death. She was deeply affected by one particular realization: “My little brothers walk home every single day with a hoodie on,” she says. “[Martin] was just walking to the store. . . . [I thought,] wow-that could have been my little brother.”

The forum opened with Dean of Students Daryl Hawkins and two students (Orlando Rodriguez and Eduardo Lopez) sharing their experiences with discrimination both off and on Eastern’s campus. This proved highly emotional to both audience members and the speakers, several of whom became choked up when re-telling their stories.

Rodriguez, Lopez and Hawkins were then joined by six panelists: Calvin Skinner, Dr. Tony Campolo, Rev. Nathan Coleman, Dr. Kevin Maness, Senior Brandon Munson and Senior Nate Williams. Questions were posed to the panelists such as, “How did you hear about Trayvon Martin?” and, “What was your response?”

“Here we go again,” Coleman said, expressing his reaction. “Am I next?” Williams asked. Campolo’s reaction was one of surprise at the apparent lack of “white faces among the protestors.”

Another topic discussed was how to move forward and learn from this tragedy. Munson described the underlying problem as one of inaction. “Racism is also apathy because it stems from ignorance,” he said.

Audience members included Chancellor Dr. Chris Hall, Vice President of Student Development Bettie Ann Brigham and University Chaplain Dr. Joe Modica. There were also Eastern alumni in attendance, some of whom posed questions and comments from microphones set up in front of the stage.

Lisa Wilson, who graduated in 2010, noted that Martin’s death “might be something God allowed so we can learn to open our hearts.”

Haskell’s goals for the forum were to educate students about social justice issues, empower them to take part in bringing awareness and engage students to get active in their churches and communities.

“Eastern for me is the school that dares you to do the impossible,” Haskell says. It was this idea that inspired her to assemble the forum. And, one week after the event, she was able to look back and state that the forum “exceeded my expectations.” 

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