Joseph Flynn hears the anxiety in his NIU classroom.
“We have conversations about the institutional violence being perpetrated against black men, and it’s a soulful and challenging intellectual issue,” says Flynn, a professor in the College of Education who also teaches a course on the social philosophy of hip-hop through the Center for Black Studies.
“Whether we’re talking about an unarmed African-American male or female being shot by police or hearing another story about a black child inadvertently killed by a stray bullet on the south side of Chicago,” he adds, “it’s painful to see so many people who look like you being killed.”
Politicians hype statistics of the bloodshed, Flynn says, but he believes many are merely trying to score points with voters rather than fix anything.
“The reality is that sometimes we’re talking about neighborhoods where some of our students grew up,” he says. “This isn’t just about numbers. This is about humanity. These are people’s lives and communities. We need to be more conscious of that, and supportive of these struggles.”
NIU will do that on Wednesday, Oct. 26, when the campus welcomes David Stovall, a professor of educational policy studies and African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He will deliver three discussions at NIU. The first will be a noon student leadership talk at the Center for Black Studies on “Sparking Change: Understanding the Role of Students as Activist.” Then in the afternoon, Stovall will talk to College of Education faculty on “Reflection and Action: Engaging Teacher and Student Activism.” And finally, all are invited to a 7 p.m., lecture and Q&A in Cole Hall on “Troubled Waters: Engaging and Understanding Activism in Times of Political and Social Change.” Co-sponsors are the Black Faculty and Staff Association, the Presidential Commission on the Status of Minorities (PCSM), the College of Education and the Center for Black Studies.
Felicia Bohanon, director of NIU’s Office of Precollegiate Programs and PSCM chair, calls the timing “critical” as Latinos become the largest-growing population of college-bound high school students.
Universities must become more sensitive to, and engaged with, diverse students, she adds, and Stovall has already has fostered constructive dialogue between African-American and Latino students in Chicago’s Little Village and North Lawndale neighborhoods.
“How can students voice their concerns? How can they be empowered? How can they advocate for themselves and their communities in ways that bring about the results they want?” Bohanon says. “That’s something David will address.”
Flynn calls Stovall “a powerful, honest, vital and uplifting presence.”
“David really knows how to connect, and he knows how to talk about these challenging issues of social justice – like Black Lives Matter, for example – with a level of honesty and gravity that’s often missing from these conversations,” Flynn says. “When our students see him, they will understand they can be erudite, they can be knowledgeable, they can be very true to themselves and they can be an effective force for change.”