Walking into a lecture hall in Gregory Hall, I really didn’t know what to expect. I dressed as I would any other day; an Abercrombie shirt, a pair of frayed shorts and some casual sandals. I sat towards the front of the room and arrived slightly early to ensure a good seat. The name of this Brown v. Board education discussion was entitled, "Rethinking Slavery: 1800-1861,” and was arranged by the Mellon initiative.
As I waited to observe the audience as they filled the seats with pencil in hand, I was amazed by the amount of diversity I saw before me. By the time the lecture was ready to set foot, I observed that nearly the entire lecture hall was filled. I would say that the hall where our discussion was being held in could probably hold around 300 people. The majority of the audience was not students forced to write a paper on the Brown v. Board Commemoration events, but rather scholars who were on average in their mid-40s. It seemed as though everyone knew each other to some degree. At one point, I saw a woman walk in with her young son and they were greeted by one of the first presenters. Oftentimes, groups of 2 or 3 walked into the room and they would sit down in no particular section of the seating and proceed to talk moderately loudly and peacefully. There was a sense of joy and rejuvenation in the air. After making my final observations of the crowd, I noted that it was a predominantly white showing! Not something I would expect to see when attending a discussion on slavery. It was a spectacle for me to see a group of Asian Americans nodding in unison when points were made during the seminar relating to black and white race relations. I would say that African-Americans were among the minorities in that room. Instead of them congregating one section of the room which some friends of mine have told me was evident in other discussions, they seemed rather dispersed. The front row of the hall was reserved for board members and such. Not everyone in the row was identified; some of the members seemed to simply be friends and family of some of the presenters and speakers.
Most of the discussion dealt with historical overview on slavery and how it pertained to today’s society. The audience was reminded early on in the discussion that race does exist in its consequences and that we must not overlook those consequences. The speaker at this portion of the discussion was a woman who seemed extremely fond of her topic. Her gestures and speech inflections were much exaggerated to the point where it almost drew attention away from her topic. It was just ironic to me how a Caucasian woman could speak with such “emotion” when she was never herself enslaved!
What followed this woman’s short speech was a short discussion led by a woman by the name of Liz Plaque. She spent her time at the podium speaking of slavery in our past to the point where I felt like I was in a history...