The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
From left to right: Ulf Spears, Timothy Ringering, Dr. Daymond Glenn, Kory Murphy and Eric Knox served as the five panelists in the “Holla If You Hear Me” Tour. The panel explored the idea of what it means to be an African-American male.
Photo credit: AVA VAN/The Falcon.
Panelists say storytelling increases understanding
By ALLISON NORTHROP,
Published: April 25 2012
It is easy to hear a “holla,” but it’s hard to listen, said Timothy Ringering, a panelist at the “Holla If You Hear Me” forum on Tuesday.
The “Holla If You Hear Me” Tour was hosted on Seattle Pacific’s campus as a part of the John Perkins Center Annual Lecture Series: Justice Speaks.
The forum told the story of the African-American male through the blended voices of five African-American men from different backgrounds.
Eric Knox, the moderator of the panel, founded the tour after its success as a panel session at The Justice Conference in February in Portland, Ore.
Giving their sixth forum in the past four days, the five men on the panel aimed to address three questions: Is there a crisis among African-American males, and if so, what are the structures that create the crisis, and what are some of the solutions to the crisis?
The discussion began with Ringering’s perspective. Ringering, a lead pastor at a church in Portland, Ore., said that people look at others and develop a set of beliefs about who they are. This leads to bias and bigotry, he said.
“I think we suffer from racial reductionism,” he said. ” I think we need to readjust our racial orthodoxy. We have a racial theology.”
Each panelist shared experiences and insight from their own unique, personal experiences to answer the three questions the forum posed.
Another panelist member, Dr. Daymond Glenn, vice president for Community Life and chief diversity officer at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Ore., wrote a book titled Critical Condition: Black Males and Multiculturalism in Higher Education.
In his research, he asked young African-American men what it means to be black and what black identity is. He said he got no consistent response.
However, he said, the social institutions the men said they got their sense of identity from were their schools, the media and their communities.
Dr. Glenn said that in his family, each generation has a different word on their birth certificate for ethnicity and race.
He said that under the race and ethnicity header on his mother’s birth certificate, it says, “colored.” His mother was born in the late 1940s.
On his birth certificate from the early 1970s, his ethnicity is identified as “Negro.”
Born six years after Dr. Glenn, his younger brother has a birth certificate that says “black.”
“I have two boys, a 13-year-old and a 4-year-old, and their birth [certificates say] ‘African-American,’” Dr. Glenn said.
Junior Rebecca Gonzalez said the panel provided a new and valuable perspective.
“I’m studying to be a teacher, and I really want to work in an urban environment,” she said. “I know I will never fully understand where [African-American] students are coming from, but just even getting a small perspective of it and the whole work of reconciliation with others … [is] really inspiring.”
Knox said the key to continuing the conversation is working to understand people’s unique, personal narratives.
“Typically, leaders give empirical evidence, and they try and give anecdotal or prescriptive ways of applying that, whereas Jesus always gave a story,” Knox said. “We’re telling justice through story, and then we bring the data to the story.”
Understanding narratives leads to relationships, Knox said.
“I think the key for you guys continuing this conversation is really working hard at understanding the narrative of people that you want to develop relationships [with],” he said. “It’s not textbook, but relationship – that’s the key. That’s our whole thing.”
Knowing the importance of telling stories prompted the tour and led to its success, Knox said.
“If you want to continue that, get into an environment that makes you uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable,” he said.
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