On the weekend of September 20th- 22nd, the College of Charleston held its annual Black Power Conference. The theme this year, Reframing Black Power Across the 20th Century and Beyond. The notable speakers from universities all over the U.S. inspired college students to take up activist roles at their own universities. Of the several panels hosted, one that rose a lot of interests among the students was a round table discussion entitled: Reframing the Orangeburg Massacre: Protest and Police Reprisals. The speakers on that panel included Cleveland Sellers of Voorhees College, a scholar and activist, Judy Richardson, Director & Former SNCC Activist , Jack Shuler of Denison University and Jack Bass of the College of Charleston.
"It was as if we were watching living history books" said one student who attended the conference. Each of the Presenters had been there at the time of the "Orangeburg Massacure" or had thoroughly researched the historic event. Judy Richards made the comment that racism has become systemic, the question then is how do we as a community change this system. Racism prevails in such drastic ways because African Americans are often referred to as "The Other". In being "the other" African Americans or anyone of African decent are considered to be "non- human".
An issue that was noticed at the conference, by one professor was that " many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) not encouraging or allowing students to question University policy’s as well as world events". She then went on to say that "HBCU’s should also teaching more on the achievements of blacks both past and current. In many cases, students are encouraged to do just enough to get by as opposed to questioning everything as critical thinkers." The question I then ask is, what does it take to be a student activist in a time where our peers and colleagues are not as conscious of the issues as students who lived during the civil rights era.