On Wednesday, February 24th, Pittsburg State University’s Black Student Association (BSA) hosted Beryl New, the certified personnel manager for Topeka Public Schools, as their keynote speaker for Black History Month.
“She works in the education field and has done TED Talks on how race impacts education,” said BSA president Kyle Carr, a junior graphic communications major. “She teaches people how race impacts how you view other people, how you work well with others, how you even view yourself.”
New began the night’s presentation with an illustration using her favorite candy, M&Ms, inspired by their multi-colored shells and chocolate centers.
“Most of us keep a protective coating over our soft and sweet inside,” New said, before continuing the illustration with comments on the composition of the human body and how, like M&Ms, people are different colors on the outside but the same on the inside.
About halfway through her presentation, New’s speech took a more solemn turn when she revealed a chart depicting the large disparity in white versus African American males killed by police.
It was this chart that Isiah Hardeman, a senior in construction management, said was his biggest takeaway from the night.
“I’ve never seen a chart that portrayed all the different ethnicities, the death rates, the murder rates that they deal with,” Hardeman said. “I knew it was high in some areas, but there was never really a focus on other minorities. It’s not just black-on-white, it’s other ethnicities as well.”
The lack of information about these disparities was another issue New discussed during her presentation.
“The opposite of intelligence is ignorance,” New said. “The antidote for ignorance is information.”
The night ended with a question and answer session with New. Several questions were asked, most centering around the impact of racism in the education field, the lack of academic opportunities and the prevalence on imposter syndrome.
Reagan Stanley, a sophomore journalism and English education major, had come to the event seeking the unique perspective New has on racism as a woman in an education field.
“(I enjoyed) getting to have a better understanding of race relations in America,” Stanley said, “(and) how it relates to us as educators.”
New concluded the night by encouraging students to broaden their vision of the world further than the visual differences.
“We are the same,” New said. “Don’t settle for just seeing my shell.”
BSA has several more upcoming events ranging from a full week of activities in alliance with other clubs to reflections on the art currently displayed at PSU’s Bicknell Center.
“We are with Empowerment Week for Men Crushing It Monday,” Carr said. “In the Bicknell there is an art gallery going on right now that has different portraits of Black Student Association events from the sixties and seventies, and there are art easels in there so people can go in and paint what they feel from these photos…”
The presentation by New was one of the final events of Black History Month, which occurs every year during February.