Poet Yoko Akili discusses societal stereotypes, issues of black masculinity

To give his take on why black men face issues such as racism, sexism and transphobia, poet and speaker Yolo Akili spoke at the Illini Union about the dominant narratives of “patriarchal men of color” on Wednesday.

The event, hosted by the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, discussed issues ranging from sexism, to racism. The talk also discussed double standards and pressure males experience from society.

Though the event was only scheduled to be an hour long lasted an extra hour because of audience involvement. The majority of the keynote was made up of Akili’s conversation with the audience. The talk’s topics expanded to religion and recent events facing the black community.

“The most important thing I want people to leave with after the event is a sense that they don’t have to fall victim to the narratives that the culture teaches us,” Akili said. “An idea that, whoever I am, I don’t have to be held up in this narrow box of what it means to be any race or gender.”

“I think talks like this should be more consistent on campus because it’s an important issue,” said Tyrone Rivers, graduate student. “The event either had not enough publicity or black men didn’t want to talk about this. The whole concept of what it means to be black is distorted, and it should be talked about within the black community.”

The Illinois Conference on Interfaith Collaboration, also being co-hosted by the same office, will be held April 20 through 22. These two events aim to help conversation about social issues occur more on campus.

“I don’t think that we can have enough of these conversations,” said Ross Wantland, assistant director of the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations. “We try to provide space for these conversations to happen. We went an hour over schedule because I think there is a lot of energy from folks to talk about these things. Especially regarding the issue of masculinity.”