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Southern Illinois University Carbondale hosts Black and Queer roundtable discussion

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By Kiersten Owens

A Black and Queer roundtable was held at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU) on Friday evening. People from many walks of life in and around the Carbondale community came together to discuss topics regarding the Black and LGBT+ communities.

Topics included the “gay agenda”, representation, and ways to support the queer community. The roundtable was conducted in light of Black History Month, however the conversation was mostly focused on the future and how these two historically marginalized communities can rewrite the narrative and move forward.

Daniel Killins, a student-worker at the Multicultural Resource Center, came up with the idea to hold and facilitate the discussion amongst students and faculty members. Killins is Black, a member of LGBT+ community, and loves the work he does at the Resource Center. Killins said he is glad he got the job and feels fortunate to have met various students that have attended the different events hosted by the Resource Center.

“What made me want to work at the resource center was the community aspect. I wanted to go to all the events no matter which coordinator was hosting it,” Killins said, “it has really changed me.”

Killins has worked at the Resource Center since the fall 2021 semester, and organized the first LGBT+ roundtable of the school year. Friday night’s roundtable was the second, and people who attended the first were eager to continue the conversation.

Makaila Ballah, a Zoology student at SIU, said they felt both roundtables hosted beneficial discussions that helped bring people together.

Ballah said they were 17 when they first began discovering themself and the way they wanted to identify as a person. They said they hadn’t had much exposure to the queer community until they were around that age, but it helped lead them on a journey of self-discovery.

“I feel like everyone, whether they were queer or otherwise, got something out of the conversation,” Ballah said, “Whether it was to get something off their
chest or gain a better understanding of what it’s like for those people within the community.”

One topic of discussion at Fridays roundtable was the importance of Queer representation in the media and other forms of regular social consumption. Many speakers discussed how important it is for the youth to see themselves represented in the media they consume and the people they are around. Representation was also discussed as being a great way to offer exposure and normality to media-consumers of a historically marginalized group such as the LGBT+ community.

However, the conversation dove deeper into the specific ways representation is displayed. Speakers shared their thoughts on how Black and LGBT+ representation done poorly can potentially leave a bad taste with those who consume it. Representation that focuses on the trauma the communities have experienced was agreed upon by those who spoke to be a total drag. The speakers said it is time to move on with the conversation, and not focus entirely on the traumatic history.

The conversation concluded with speakers sharing ideas on how they could move the conversation forward and provide support for the LGBT+ community. Other ideas were discussed in regards to helping the youth who may seek representation or need someone to talk with.

Cherie Watson, the Outreach and Instruction Librarian at SIU, shared her thoughts at the discussion on the importance of access to information at libraries and how crucial it is to help under-represented groups. Watson said issues are arising throughout the United States to ban certain books that depict same-sex relations and this is damaging to the LGBT+ community.

“We have a long tradition in libraries of believing in people’s right to information and access to materials without censorship,” Watson said. “We want our collections to represent the world as it is, and provide a safe space.”

Janine Armstrong isa Graduate Assistant at SIU under the department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies. She said she teaches classes where barriers are taken down, and everyone can talk comfortably about uncomfortable topics.

Armstrong said she has a specific academic focus on how identities intersect and overlap, such as being a Queer Christian of Color. She said she loved the discussion held at the Black and Queer roundtable, but did have one request.

“I wish we had more time,” said Armstrong, “The more time we have, the deeper we can go. I wanted to hear everyone talk and share something.”

Armstrong was not alone in her wish. Others shared their hopes to have longer discussion time, have more discussions in general, and get more people involved regardless of their identity.

Ballah said, “I feel like it is definitely important for people that aren’t identifying with whatever conversation we’re having to still come, because they’ll learn about something new.”

Staff reporter Kiersten Owens can be reached at [email protected] To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter. This story is reprinted here with permission. Read the original article.

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