Diversity lecture focuses on spaces for people of color at universities

“I think there are certain places that there are [spaces for people of color at the University of Indianapolis], but they’re very limited,” junior psychology and religion major Mariana Rosendo said.

Rosendo was in attendance at a diversity lecture by Stacey Pearson-Wharton that took place on Feb. 10. UIndy Residence Life invited Pearson-Wharton to speak on what it is like for students of color to be on a predominantly white campus, Pearson-Wharton said. 

Photo by Madison Gomez Junior psychology and religion major Mariana Rosendo stands in front as a volunteer for Stacy Pearson-Wharton’s exercise. She was poked and prodded by other volunteers to display what micro-aggressions look like physically.

Pearson-Wharton has traveled to over 20 universities to give similar lectures on diversity and acceptance. Her goal, Pearson-Wharton said, is to have allies step up for students of color, but also have people of color in attendance of her lecture leave with a tool that they can use daily. With her advice, Pearson-Wharton said she hopes people of color in her audience thrive in predominantly white environments, not just survive.

“I think that we’re better together,” Pearson-Wharton said. “I understand that sounds cliche, but there would be no stoplight if it weren’t for diversity because that was invented by a black man, or what part of education literature says is that the more diverse a classroom is, the better people learn. So there is value in, not just from a moral and social justice place, but there’s value from an economic and productivity place.” 

This lecture hit close to a point of research, clinical psychology graduate student Otteria Trimble said. The dissertation Trimble needs to write in order to graduate next year is exploring belonging and how that impacts black students with their feelings of diversity and inclusion on campus, Trimble said. Trimble said she found a sense of validation and also discovered new points from Pearson-Wharton’s lecture.

For others, like for psychical therapy doctoral student Brantley Seawright, this lecture stuck out as a great learning opportunity.

“I’m here honestly because being a black person in a white environment has pretty much always been my life since pretty much a young age,” Seawright said. “I went to a black church, but my elementary, middle, high school, undergrad were all predominantly white universities and institutions, so I like coming to events like this.”

Photo by Madison Gomez Speaker Stacy Pearson-Wharton expresses to the crowd she came to UIndy to educate and make the audience have a good time. Her movements throughout the stage caused her to project using voice rather than a microphone for the majority of the “Being black in white spaces” lecture on Feb. 10.

Being a dot in a sea of whiteness is what Seawright said he resonated most with out of Pearson-Wharton’s lecture. He said oftentimes whenever there’s a racial issue that pertains to the black community, eyes float to him. Seawright said he probably should not have to accept that, but it is something he has learned to deal with. 

Both Seawright and Trimble said they have not seen much of a space for people of color at UIndy due to being graduate students and only coming to campus to pop in and out of classes. Despite this, they both said they would keep an eye out for the spaces in their years to come. 

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