Home Campus Black Panther renews the conversation on diversity

Black Panther renews the conversation on diversity

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Black Panther has been a critical and financial success receiving a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 11-day domestic total of $411.7 million; however, the unique setting in the film presented an opportunity to promote diversity and cultural awareness.

Several audience members at the Edwards Grand Teton Stadium 14 theater made comments after the film such as, “Why did the film have so much black culture?” and “It is about time there is a Marvel film that highlights the topic of diversity.”

Many minorities at BYU-Idaho felt that the film gave them a voice.

Approximately 15 percent of students on campus fall under the category of minority, according to the BYU-I statistics pageBlack Panther assisted several BYU-I students in reaching out to others to promote an event reflecting on Black History Month.

The African Heritage Association presented Black History Month Celebration #Black Excellence, an on-campus show that was put together and ran by BYU-I students, which used Black Panther to promote the event on Facebook and as a means to connect with the audience through references and scenes from the film.

The event included singing, dancing, a fashion show and quotes from prominent black people that all reflect on black history and moments of excellence.

“It was a moment and event that promoted unity among all people,” said Dunique Charles, one of the organizers of the event and a senior studying business management. “This event was one that was for people of all races to promote unity and understanding through black history.”

The event was held in the Manwaring Center’s Little Theater. The audience extended past the entrance of the theater, including people of all races and ethnicities, including Latinos, whites and Asians. The reception of the audience was positive and energetic throughout the duration of the program.

“I feel like this event allowed me to embrace another culture that is close to home,” said Hyrum Van Scheltema, a student from South Africa studying environmental geoscience. “While this event did show that diversity is being mentioned at BYU-I, I feel that more programs such as this should be promoted.”

Many students said they believe that other than the weekly Latin Dance and the Cultural Night later this semester, there are no other activities supporting diversity and cultural understanding.

“I feel that BYU-I is getting there with giving a voice to culture awareness,” said Dupond Merilan, a freshman studying computer science. “I feel that more could be done, like more opportunities for students to voice their culture.”

On Sept. 1, 2017, BYU-I decided to officially end student associations in order to promote academic success and graduation.

“(Academic Societies are) a place where we intend to invest and would like to see those grow because we know how beneficial it is to completion and students becoming who they want to be when their time at college is done,” said Amy LaBaugh, Student Life vice president.

Student societies are available but are solely based on academics.

“I feel as if the end of student association clubs had an effect on how culturally aware students have been,” said Justin Moon, a junior studying accounting. “After watching Black Panther it reminded me of the important lessons a student can learn from other cultures.”

Erika Robinson, a junior studying elementary education, said she believes diversity is good but has seen how diversity can harm others.

“I feel the average student (the majority) gets ignored and a little lost because teachers focus so much on including minorities,” Robinson said.

Other students have issues with diversity. Alejandro Lopez, a junior studying sociology, said he believes focusing on differences can separate us.

“Focusing on what makes us different can separate us instead of unify,” Lopez said. “Why do we have to focus on what makes a specific aspect of us excellent, aren’t we all excellent?”

Others believe the diversity here on campus is what makes it special.

“At BYU-I, we have literally hundreds of cultures woven into our very special fabric,” said John Ivers, a faculty member of the Languages and International      Studies department.

Ivers said that in multicultural situations, anyone can misinterpret.

“Avoiding knee-jerk reactions and affording our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt should be the rule for all of us here,” Ivers said. “Very often, the problem could lie in our own lack of cultural awareness rather than the other person’s  specific actions.”



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