McHenry County College plans racial inequality discussion series to begin Wednesday
In a time of immense racial tension across the country, President of McHenry County College's Black Student Union Patrice Jones said she believes healing will come to her community through an increased focus on bringing students of different backgrounds together to have honest and open conversations about race.
"We all go through the same things, but there are different privileges and we have to learn what certain privileges do for one culture that they don't do for another," Jones said. "So it's really about being able to share those conversations that are often not spoken of and to really educate people on just learning who you are and who others are."
As a first step, the Black Student Union will host a series of in-depth discussions on racial inequality in coordination with MCC's Office of Multicultural Affairs. The series, "Facing Racial Inequality," will begin Wednesday with a student-led discussion entitled "Hearing our Students' Stories."
According to MCC's Coordinator of Multicultural Affairs Franklin Ortega-Palaguachi, Wednesday's event will be held as a virtual conversation through Zoom.
The event is meant to encourage students of all backgrounds to share their experiences and thoughts around racial inequality, Ortega-Palaguachi said.
"We have students of color that are looking for support and inclusion in our institution and we need to show them that we are supporting them, that we are here for their needs and we want to hear from them," he said.
The discussion will be 10:30 a.m. to noon and feature a panel of student leaders who will give advice on how to continue advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Interested students and community members can join the conversation by registering through a link on the event's page, which was posted to McHenry County College's Facebook page. Event participants will receive a confirmation email with instructions on how to join the Zoom call Wednesday, Ortega-Palaguachi said.
The discussion series is the result of a collaborative effort by several organizations on campus and in the community, Jones said.
"We've been trying to collaborate with other community advocate-type services to educate one another, to inform people and to have people feel more comfortable with those kinds of conversations if we work together, we get more accomplished," she said.
Jones said she has felt particularly inspired by the most recent iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement because she has seen a lot of collaboration and endurance within the actions that people have been taking.
Now, she wants to bring that kind of energy and consistency to the MCC community.
These conversations are "important to what (students) are seeing on TV now or what they're seeing in their communities now of how (Black people) are being brutalized or mistreated in public," Jones said.
"It's important for them to be able to understand it, know what to do about it, not be afraid to speak up about it and have those open conversations."
Jones currently is working toward a certified nursing assistant license with the ultimate goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.
After struggling with complex and, at times, debilitating medical issues for years, Jones said she has seen firsthand how racial health inequities and the lack of representation in the medical field impact the ability of minority populations to have access to quality health care.
"At this point, (many people) really can't see the differences that are made because of what area you live in, where you come from, who you are, but that all starts in the system itself," Jones said.
According to Jones, her goal to become a nurse practitioner was born out of her own struggles and the desire to increase the amount of medical professionals who can connect with patients of varying backgrounds.
"It would be someone who understood and would have a background and an idea of where you come from and what you're going through versus someone guessing or making an assumption," she said.
Whether it be on campus or in their careers post-graduation, striving to make connections and understand the perspectives of people of different backgrounds is what will ultimately allow MCC students to be agents for change, Jones said.
"A lot of this is people just don't know," she said. "They go by social media, TV shows, you know, the negative information that's provided, instead of learning one another and figuring out that we're all the same, we're just different shades."
In a joint statement, the two faculty advisers of MCC's Black Student Union -- Director of Talent Management Sandra Moll and Coordinator of Career Services and Adjunct Faculty Member Demetrius Robinson -- encouraged students to become "active participants" in the conversation around diversity and inclusion on campus.
Opening yourself up to conversations about racial injustice begins with admitting and identifying one's own bias, the two advisers wrote in the statement.
"Please seek an understanding of injustices that have transpired for the Black community, be proactive in creating change (and) seek accountability for actions to end injustices for all ..." the statement read.
Another important element to bringing racial equity and healing to the MCC community will be to increase the diversity of faculty and staff so that all students can see themselves reflected in the college's leadership, Jones said.
"It's going to take the effect of everyone involved to have those conversations and also be willing to work and network," she said. "(This series) has to be just like the protests, it has to be an ongoing process until you see the changes occur."