Last week, Housatonic Community College (HCC) hosted a virtual Black Lives Matter discussion that focused on protective and risk factors. The event was the first in a series of three virtual conversations that will concentrate on racial injustice and what can be done to heal. The next events in the series take place on November 30 and December 14 on HCC’s Facebook page.
Carlton Gill, project coordinator for HCC’s Success Center and Men’s Center, invited two of the area’s top community activists, Chaquanzha Stephenson, CEO and founder of D.O.P.E., Inc., and Wilner Joseph, CEO and founder of Young Athletes 4 Change, for a frank discussion about challenges in black and brown communities, and what changes can be made to advance justice and healing.
“Coming from where I grew up, you want to get out and become something in life. You want to be able to get educated, get the resources that you can get from any circumstances and be able to understand the value of life. As teens growing up in my community, we’re not taught in school about life skills, we’re not taught how to become an entrepreneur, so organizations like mine and Chaquanzha’s are resources where they can get information and grow as leaders,” said Joseph.
The panelists talked about what the Black Lives Matter movement means to them.
Black Lives Matter is imperative for anybody watching because it’s not really just a race thing, it’s a human thing,” explained Stephenson. “If you’re a human, you have feelings. How can you watch [racial injustice] and not see disparity, not feel bad about it, and think it’s okay?”
“It’s time for the world to really start shedding light on the importance of what black men and black women go through in America,” said Joseph. “It’s time for us to start really focusing on education and economics in our community.”
A dialogue about the systematic institutional structures that disadvantage black and brown communities was held, and looking to the future, the panelists hope the new presidential administration tackles prison reform and places more resources into black and brown communities.
“Having open dialogues is a critical part of reckoning social, racial and economic injustices. At Housatonic, we are hosting these virtual events to do our part in helping to transform the country into one that is more just for all its citizens. I invite everyone to tune in, listen and learn from each other,” said Dwayne Smith, Ph.D., HCC Chief Executive Officer.
The next event in HCC’s Black Lives Matter Virtual Series is entitled ‘Trigger Happy’ and will be held on Monday, November 30th at 6 PM to discuss gun violence. The final event in the series, ‘UJIMA’, will be held on Monday, December 14th at 6 PM to discuss our collective work and responsibilities. Both events are Facebook Live events and can be found by visiting https://www.facebook.com/HCCBridgeport/.