By Seneca Ransom
This past month was February which means it was Black History Month. A month where people look back and reflect on the many accomplishments and cultural values that the African American community adds to not just to the Malone campus but to the world. Malone students, especially those that are African American take it as a time that they can hopefully have their experiences acknowledged as a minority on a mostly caucasian campus. Many Malone students who involved themselves in this month’s festivities may have attended the panel on February 18th. The panel was presented by Kiera Conkel and Annie Kadlecek in association with the Malone Social Work Club. Speakers included many familiar faces here at Malone. Such speakers were James Talbert (Bless Up and Director of Multicultural Services), Justine Chester (Admission counselor), current senior Audra Edwards (Celebration Speaker), and Ryan Cartwright also known as Rev (3rd Street Church). The panel discussion did not steer clear of more serious topics such as racism, the issues of what it means to be an ally, and even the panel speakers own personal experiences celebrating and dealing with issues revolving around race. Kiera Conkle, graduating in December of 2020 with a double major in Social Work and Global & International Studies spearheaded this month’s activities. Conkle participates in the America Reads, America counts tutoring, her off-campus internship for social work, and the Social Work Club. Conkle went forward through her professors to push for Black History events in the absence of Brenda Stevens, former head of the Multicultural Students Union. Conkle realized that nothing was scheduled for Black History Month. As far as the events being held Conkle said, “We’re doing a lot more movie based engagement trying to keep it modern, and it keeps it in ways that will entertain younger generations of students. We first did ‘the hate u give’ and talked a little bit about police brutality and the codeswitching a lot of Malone students have to deal with being here at a white university, as well as conversations about multiracial relationships.” Conkle mentioned how the panel including alumni and a current student addressed experiences with racial issues. Regarding her hopes for the panel, Conkle wants Malone students to address the “Malone bubble” and their often common view that if it doesn’t affect students lives directly, they should avoid it because it makes them feel uncomfortable.“Especially on a Christian campus” she states the importance of emphasizing and understanding the lives of minority students, not just during black history month but year-round. We see this drive to raise awareness from Annie Kadlecek. Kadlecek is a junior Social Work major with a focus in Exercise Science. She is an RA in Heritage and president for the junior class among other extracurriculars. Kadlecek, along with Conkle, helped in addressing the lack of activities with the leaving of Brenda Stevens and lack of planning time. She states how it’s important “to acknowledge the presence of the people that month is for-Celebrating a month is one step at a time.” Kadlecek as a part of her work on Malone social media decided to highlight how students feel about the month of February and using the hashtag, “what does black history mean to you?” “Our hopes for the panel were to have a space for people to be comfortable to ask questions. One of the topics we touched on was what it means to be a good ally. Because Malone is a predominantly white campus, I think understanding what it looks like to be a good ally is really important. To make the minority students here feel seen and like they are not alone in that” said Kadlecek. “As the church, it is our responsibility for us to empathize and understand what with the experiences of our brothersand sisters in Christ go through and to raise awareness for that. Not to become their voice but raise it alongside theirs and say this is something that matters” said Kadlecek. We can clearly see how community, friendship, and a Christian outlook on real-world issues help Malone students to use their voices on campus to support one another. The panelists also had a whole lot to offer at the panel on February 18th. Audra Edwards, a current Malone senior Bible and Theology major was one of the panelists who offered her own insight into what it means to be a black student at Malone celebrating Black History Month. She was approached by Kiera “last minute,” but she thought it would be a great experience. As far as what she hopes the panel accomplishes on campus, “I pray that the panel discussion leads to further conversation and discussion. I think like I said at the panel one of the disadvantages of previous panels is the conversation ends and stops once people leave the room, and that kind of doesn’t contribute to the shifts when people say that they want when it comes to Malone and diversity and growth.” She adds from a Christian standpoint, “As a Christian university we should be celebrating all walks of life and all types of people. Especially with the fight, we have had a feeling like we have a place here or like our voices matter. As the body of Christ, we know that if we don’t have a well-represented group of people, that we don’t have the correct image of God. If I only see God through my black African American lense then I don’t see the fullness of God. If I only see God through my white lense I don’t see the fullness of God.” “We’re having some events, a week-long fest, it’s called mosaic. We get to celebrate all of our international students, our people of color. One of the common misconceptions said James Talbert at the panel, is that the [multicultural student union] is just for people of color. But it’s multicultural which means that it includes everybody, so we encourage people to keep an eye out for what we will be advertising soon.” This past Black History month has given Malone’s campus a lot to think about in regards to how we can each come together to support one another and our differences as Christians. Even simply listening to each other’s stories, but also taking the initiative as well to educate ourselves about the experiences of others is a great step into being more empathetic.