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‘Not just rappers’: Black male panel breaks down stereotypes through discussion

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by Sherri Keaton, Central Michigan University

centralmichiganblackmalepanel“Judge me for being me.”

That is what Travis Foster wants people to do when they first look at him, instead of having misconceptions about what a black male is.

“You have to get to know individuals,” the Detroit senior said. “I don’t think you can ever put a stereotype or a spin on a group based on a few interactions with those people.”

The “Image of a Black Male” panel discussion took place Thursday night in the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium.

More than 150 attendees listened to the five-person panel of black men, ranging from freshman to graduate students discussing their views of how black males are often portrayed in different situations.

Topics ranged from homosexuality in the church, to the culture of music, interracial relations and mentors in the community.

Detroit junior Carly Wilson said the event helped break down negative images of black men.

“I think this event was definitely educational, that gave some people a perspective of how black men really are,” she said. “They’re not just rappers.”

One of the topics raised was the feelings of black men about the portrayal of black women in the media.

Panelist and Mount Pleasant graduate student George Draughn said with hip-hop’s negative connotations about black men and women, people lose hope.

“If you lose hope, there is no point in struggle,” he said. “Hip-hop does help enhance attributes that help us lose hope.”

Flint freshman Andrew Jacks said when hip-hop was first created, it was a positive thing to celebrate black culture. Yet, as the years progressed, hip-hop has gotten blown out of proportion.

“Black men were strong, and now we’re still strong, but in a bad way that leaves void of positive role models,” he said.

Sean Novak, assistant director of Minority Student Services, said these type of conversations do not generally happen in the mainstream media.

“To get people together to discuss the pertinent issues will hopefully lead this discussion into a plan of action,” he said.

Novak is a member of the male mentor program “Men About Change.” The program sponsored the event with the hopes of creating a higher retention rate for first year students of color through mentorship and community service.

“Contrary to the beliefs of the media, more black men are in college today than ever before, and more are getting degrees and doing positive things,” Foster said.

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Written by Symphony

February 28, 2009 at 8:03 am

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