Faculty, staff discuss being black in DeKalb

By Brenden Walz

The lines of communication between Euro-Americans and African-Americans opened up for a couple of hours during a forum on being black in DeKalb Sunday night.

Four NIU staff and faculty members gave presentations based on their own personal experiences and shared a more general perspective on being black in a college town at the Holmes Student Center’s Illinois Room.

Van Amos, project coordinator for the Center for Black Studies, cited statistics which showed that African-American students still lag behind white students in public schools despite Supreme Court rulings in cases such as Brown vs. Board of Education.

However, Amos also said there was “light at the end of the tunnel.” African-Americans have been forced to go it alone and solve their own problems on their own.

All four panelists noted the lack of a cultural scene for African-Americans in DeKalb.

Marilyn Monteiro, NIU director of Affirmative Action, listed a number of rights whites have in DeKalb which are denied to African-Americans. Among those she listed were access to entertainment featuring African-Americans, availability of food products and hair products, and schools which provide good role models for children.

While DeKalb does not have a large cultural base for African-Americans, Monteiro also said there is hardly, if any, diversity in the Euro-American culture.

“DeKalb doesn’t feel German, Jewish, Italian … instead, it feels ruralish,” Monteiro said.

She said she has to travel to a large metropolitan area like Chicago in order to satisfy her cultural needs.

NIU minority program counselor Jerry Wright said he has found much of his cultural base from DeKalb’s New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

As a suggestion for a solution, Monteiro said “we need more diversity in the community.”

Tendaji Ganges, director of Educational Services and Programs, said he did not want people to feel sorry for him because he doesn’t live in DeKalb.

“Don’t feel sorry for me,” Ganges said. “You should feel sorry for yourself. It’s your loss.”

Ganges said people instead need to see the benefits of having different cultures in their community.

Wright added another way he has tried to improve understanding has been by making presentaions to other NIU organizations. One group has been white fraternities, which Wright said tended to come to NIU with the most racist ideas about African-Americans.