“What’s Black in the News” panel discusses violence, other issues in black community

The National Association of Black Journalists, or NABJ, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People presented the second annual “What’s Black in the News” panel discussion Tuesday night.

The panel covered topics including black family dynamics, the relationship between local and campus black communities, coping with stress caused by racism, the reason for hate crimes and media influence on black children.

The co-president of the University’s chapter of NABJ, Erica McKinney, senior in Media and former Illini Media employee, introduced four faculty members to a nearly full lecture hall in the Animal Sciences Laboratory.

Christopher Benson, professor of African American Studies and journalism; Joycelyn Landrum-Brown, program coordinator for the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations; Jennifer Hamer, associate professor of African American Studies; and William Patterson, associate director of the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center made up the panel. They discussed violence in the black community, a shift from last year’s topic regarding the media’s portrayal of blacks.

“We tend to think of hate crimes after the fact because that’s when they’re reported in the news,” Benson said. “They actually occur in a broader sense and are part of a systematic problem that involves power more than hate. Hate crimes are committed by people who are trying to retain their power through violence.”

The panel later discussed the image of black students on campus.

“Thug life is a powerful image,” Patterson said. “Such a powerful image that it came to campus. The collegiate thug looks like the thug on the block. He’s got his pants at his knees on the Quad, and he’s doing things like starting fights on Green Street. But if you really thought being a thug was legitimate, you wouldn’t be doing it on the Quad; you’d still be in the hood.”

The conversation opened up when the topic changed to the death of Kiwane Carrington, a 15-year-old who was shot and killed by a Champaign police officer in October 2009.

“If you look at the nexus of power and their connections to the police, you see why the people who are supposed to be doing something about this aren’t doing anything,” Benson said.

The panel also discussed the community’s reaction to the incident.

“(The Carrington shooting) was one of the first issues since the 1970s to mobilize the black community this much,” Patterson said. “I’m hoping his death will not be in vain, and that it will make young people come together to find the pump for change.”