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Community educated on how to be an “ally”

BY BENJAMIN TOWAR | JANUARY 30, 2015 5:00 AM

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In recognition of events taking place nationally and on the University of Iowa campus, students and members of the African-American community gathered to talk about the ways in which everyone can be allies.

An ally, as defined by the panel at the University of Iowa College of Public Health Thursday night, is a supporter of the movement toward equality for the African-American community — emphasis on supporter. While an important part of the movement, the movement toward equality should be headed by people of color.

UI mathematics Professor Phil Kutzko, who opened the panel with a keynote speech, introduced as the “drum major” of minority students, shared his experience working with students who struggled because of their ethnicity.

Kutzko used quotes from prominent figures of the civil-rights movement such as Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to emphasize what it meant to be an ally of the Africasn-American community. He concluded his speech with an expression of hope for the future and said this hope lies in reconciliation.

“We need to express our pain and promise to move forward and forget the past,” Kutzko said.

Following his speech, five panelists — Kendra Malone, Royceann Porter, Orville Townsend, and Reggie Ross — took the stage.

Fifteen minutes of stage time was devoted toward a discussion among the panelists. Each panelist expressed her or his opinion about being an ally and the roles that allies serve the black community.

“Allies follow the leadership of people of color,” said Porter, a member of the Black Voices Project. “You don’t have to be a leader.”

Panel members referred to recent events both nationally and on the UI campus but didn’t specifically talk about alliance at those events.

The panel was then opened up to an open forum in which audience members were able to ask questions for panelists to respond to.

The questions asked ranged from the responsibilities allies have toward other people, the cultural boundaries that allies should not overstep, and the solutions to racism in the United States.

Kutzko’s message of reconciliation resounded in the panelists’ answers. He said he believes the conjoined effort from both blacks and whites will inspire change.

In concluding the panel, Ross reached out to the allies, saying “Come, support, push, and empower those people that you hoped to.”


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