Racially-charged social media post prompts packed USD forum

Local News

A racially-charged tweet has the attention of the University of South Dakota, and it prompted the university to host a student forum on Monday night to talk about race.

A student organization at the University of South Dakota called Strollers puts on skits. In recent days, a Strollers Twitter account posted a tweet which talks about using the N-word. The forum on Monday night was about this post, but it was also more broadly about race and conversations about race.

USD junior Ashley Charlie spoke with conviction in front of her peers Monday night.

“First I would like to take out the stereotype,” Charlie said. “I am not an aggressive black woman. I am not someone that tries to intimidate or make people fearful or whatever stereotype that comes with a black woman and many of us.”

As she points out, students could be spending their time doing something else.

“Right now I should be worrying about my chemistry test, not sitting here having a forum for people that should already know about the situation that’s going on,” Charlie said.

“We really do want to make sure that our students’ voices are being heard, that we’re addressing their concerns, and that we can move forward in positive directions, being as inclusive as possible,” said Lamont Sellers, associate vice president for diversity at USD.

Laura Chandler, director of the school’s Center for Diversity & Community, said the night was for the students.

“I’m sorry that you are experiencing something that you have experienced one too many times at this institution, to be frank, and I’m sorry that this has happened during a month where we have had beautiful and uplifting programming in honor of Black History Month,” Chandler said.

In attendance was USD sophomore Bentou Kamara, who belongs to the Union of African-American Students.

“Calling a black person the N-word is never okay to say,” Kamara said. “And just using that word casually is not okay to say.”

Seeing this type of crowd, though, is another kind of feeling entirely.

“It is honestly so empowering because at first we were going to have it in the CDC which is much smaller, and when we saw the crowd, we were like, ‘Whoa,’ we have to move it into the ballroom,” Kamara said.

The Twitter account from which the tweet came no longer exists. KELOLAND News approached two people at the event who said they are affiliated with Strollers, but neither wanted to give an interview.

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