Your Lives Matter: Students Speak Out

Kei'yona Jordon, Copy Editor

The Student Government Association (SGA) closed out Mental Health Awareness Week with a “Your Lives Matter: Students Speak Out’ forum from 5-6:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 in the Chapman Auditorium.

SGA invited Linda Sullen, president of the African-American Faculty and Staff Coalition; Louis Venters, associate professor of history; Caira Wilson, president of the FMU NAACP chapter; and Michael Youseff, campaign manager for the Chaquez McCall for Florence City Council, to speak on the panel.

In light of the different race and diversity movements taking place in America, SGA wanted to give students a chance to use their voices and make their opinions and experiences heard.

Daphne Carter-McCants, assistant vice president for the Student Life Office, moderated the panel and directed questions from the audience.

Venters told the audience about his life raising two bi-racial children. He also shared the story of his son’s first encounter with the police and how, because of their race, they would have more encounters with the police.

“Statistically speaking, it won’t be his last encounter with the police,” Venters said. “And all my sons are doing is getting taller and taller.”

The panel also discussed the argument that racism is different between the younger and older generations.

Each of the panelists had different opinions. Venters said he had always put a lot of faith in the younger generation erasing racism, but had been discouraged when he saw acts of violence geared toward racial differences being carried out by younger people.

“I was feeling good,” Venters said. “But maybe it was some of those pictures from Charlottesville a few years ago where a lot of those Nazi’s were young college students.”

Youseff said, in his opinion, things were getting better because the leaders of the younger generation were being born.

“I think we are definitely seeing the new generation rising up,” Youseff said.

He backed up his statement by sharing some of the statistics from the city of Florence’s younger population.

“Florence had the highest voter turnout for young people that we have ever seen,” Youseff said.

Youseff said the protests for George Floyd all around the country showed him the new generation is starting to prioritize effecting change.

“The new generation is starting to realize what the older generation went through as far as racism,” Youseff said. “And the new generation is acting on it.”

Sullen said she was confident that the younger generation is the generation who will make change.

“This is the generation that is going to fight for my rights,” Sullen said. “So I have faith that we are going to see a change.”

Wilson also agreed that the younger generation will make a change, but before that change is made, there is a long way to go.

“I feel like the older generation has fought and it’s time for the younger generation to pick up the torch,” Wilson said.

Near the end of the event, Carter-McCants opened the stage to students who wanted to share their personal experiences or comments.

Some of the SGA senators went on stage and shared what they thought needed to happen to see change. Other people talked about how they had experienced racism as a young kid and how it took away their innocence or instilled anger in them.

SGA said the event was very successful and would not be the last diversity and race discussion on campus.