A conversation between Eastern students at the Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Office’s Living Room Conversation event on race created a space for students of color on campus to share their experiences and relate to one another.
The event, hosted by graduate assistant Brandy Matthews, only drew one attendant, Isaiah Edwards. The conversation revolved around several topics, including police violence, racism, and their experiences as a student of color on Eastern’s campus.
The two students acknowledged the presence of racism and discussed the ways it has affected them on campus, at home, and in the Charleston area.
When discussing the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Matthews said that “there are thoughts of being scared, you know? If it could happen to them, what makes me think it couldn’t happen to me?”
Edwards also noted occasionally feeling unsettled as a person of color. “I feel it… I walk around, I walk in stores, people act like… they’ve never seen a black man before. People stare… they stare hard.”
Alongside the concerns they have about their experiences on campus, they worry that were they ever in a situation of peril, there would be no support for them.
“What if I’m riding around one day and my car breaks down… and I don’t know where I’m at, really… what if something happened to me? What if somebody tried to do something,” Edwards said.
With a hard and powerful conversation behind them, Matthews shifted the topic of discussion to self-care in hopes of promoting healthful living amidst the stresses of the day.
Edwards acknowledged the necessity of self-care, given the amount of things students of color, as well as students in general, need to think about. “It’s like you’re being attacked from every angle. You got school, you got so much going on in the world… you got loved ones, friends that you’re thinking about… you’re just expected to stay focused.”
How does he cope with it? Religion, he said. “As far as my spiritual side goes, I’m in my bible a lot.”
While Matthews says that Eastern has only recently begun providing an outlet for students of color to have their voices heard on campus, she says that it appears there is more programming of the sort to come.
“I did my undergrad here at Eastern, and there was never a place for me to feel comfortable to talk about me being black, ever. So if I can give that to a student, that’d be great… I feel like it’s very important,” Matthews said.
“In March, I saw that there were more spaces, as well as conferences… EIU Unity, there’s one March 5th, and they’re talking about not just people of color but minority people in general, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, people of color, and there’s conferences for people to learn more. I feel like it’ll be a new occurrence – now that people are talking about it more, I feel like it will be.”
John Wills can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]