By Selah Vetter, Staff Writer
Samford students joined together last week on their own to understand different points of view on race. Hannah Atchley and Antrenique Jones formed Hard Conversations: Leading to Healing.
Starting as a conversation between two friends, Atchley and Jones hope to promote understanding coming from different races.
“Different narratives, different experiences,” Jones said.
Overtime, Atchley and Jones began each inviting one person at a time. Intentionally keeping the discussions small, students express their questions and opinions within a small circle of peers.
“We invite people into listening to the discussion we’re already having,” Atchley said.
The conversations begin with a reading of their mission statement. Atchley and Jones typically start off with a broad question. The discussion is guided by comments and follow-up questions students have.
Hard Conversations: Leading to Healing is not affiliated with any organization or office at Samford University. Atchley and Jones emphasize the importance of students meeting together on their own to discuss these difficult topics. On Nov. 5, Atchley and Jones hosted their first panel discussion for Hard Conversations: Leading to Healing at Harry’s Coffeehouse, on campus.
The panel consisted of five students, including Atchley and Jones. The five members of the panel represented different races and backgrounds. The discussion started with each student’s Samford experience. Students said since Samford is a predominantly white institution, minority students struggle finding their place at the university.
“I saw the racial divide and it made me uncomfortable,” Jones said. “When I first got here, I didn’t fit in at all.”
All of the members of the panel said they had felt isolated at one point of their time at Samford. They learned to stop trying to find a new identity, but to find value in who they are.
“We feel like we have to put a label on ourselves,” senior Noél Espinal said. “It’s easier if you let yourself be open to connect to people.”
The panel also discussed the recent outrage on campus stemming from an offensive Snapchat post by a Samford student. Minority students said they felt hurt and targeted, and said they hope the post causes students to realize that racism is still present.
“It reminded me of the deep rooted institutional things that have been taught,” Jones said. “It made me feel self-conscious.”
The panel emphasized the importance of education. The students said ignorance is not excused, but changed through education. The students hope that Samford implements more programs and classes that teach about racial diversity.
“People don’t teach about different culture and races,” senior Rick Charles said. “We’re so afraid to talk about this.”