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Faith and Ferguson: PLNU event “breaks the silence during Advent”

Students and staff flooded the ARC Dec. 9 to discuss in small groups the reactions of students to the events that led to the death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and its implications for PLNU. About 25 PLNU faculty and staff members attended the event to discuss these issues with the student.

“We’re here to create a safe space to talk about those things…that are often difficult to talk about in our community. We can’t be active participants, whether politically or socially if we don’t know what’s going on,” said Taylor Rivers, the treasurer for the Black Student Union (BSU), during the event Dec. 9.

The BSU co-partnered with the Center for Justice and Reconciliation to host this event.

Three of BSU’s representatives – Lorren Comeaux, Taylor Rivers and Ebanezare Tadele – started the conversation with a Faith and #Ferguson Discussion PowerPoint outlining the case studies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot by white police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri Aug. 9. Eric Garner, a 43 year-old black man who had asthma and heart disease among other ailments, was placed in an illegal chokehold by white police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in Staten Island, New York on July 17. Video taken of Garner’s arrest was shown at the event. Both instances resulted in the deaths of both men and protests internationally.

“The nation is hurting so those are the things we have to address because those will affect us no matter what,” said Ebanezare Tadele, the vice president for the club, during the event.

After detailing the cases, the club handed out flashcards for students and faculty alike to write out their questions (FaithAndFergusonQ&A). The group separated into small groups with faculty in each group.

Sophomore Clayton Silva, a business administration major, said that PLNU is a difficult place to have this conversation about racial issues.

“It’s almost impossible to discuss comprehensively what could be discussed because of the boundary of political correctness,” Silva said. “I think that people whose ideas are perhaps different from what may have been presented are going to get immediately shut down and seen as something that they were not initially intend to be, regardless of how articulate they may have been.”

Sophomore Ben Cragoe, a managerial and organization communication major, said while his perspective on the issues did not change at this event, it was a really good idea.

“I do think it was cool that this happened on this type of campus because I knew that if I came and expressed my honest opinion, even if I was surrounded at a table with people that weren’t my skin color, they would accept my opinion; as opposed to in other situations, I might have been attacked in some circumstance, not physically but verbally attacked. It would have been a different story,” Cragoe said.

Lorren Comeaux, the president of the BSU, said the event gave her more passion and drive to continue this conversation.

“Reading through the questions, I just see a very focused commitment to actually finding a solution to this issue that is like taking over the country,” Comeaux said. “It’s all over media and everywhere. It personally touched me to see that and to see Point Loma’s commitment to this issue.”

Rylie Shore is a co-intern for the Center for Justice and Reconciliation (CJR)’s ‘Welcome the Stranger’ immigration and racial reconciliation project for students at PLNU. She said the event was a good opportunity to delve into these issues.

“It’s really easy to point fingers and say like, ‘This is the history of it or this is what’s going on but I don’t really see my involvement in it,’ but… as Christians, we want to recognize that we play a part in it,” Shore said. “I think even our relationship with Christ is like that, a confessional journey, so in regards to anything else in our lives, that’s the way change will happen.”

Shore said it was nice to see that “confessional journey” in the evening’s conversation through student and faculty expression of their personal experience with these issues.

Jamie Gates, the director of the CJR and a professor of sociology at PLNU, said that this event just shows that “we have a campus that cares and that’s important.”

“I think the most important moment for me tonight was when Ebanezare [Tadele, the BSU vice president], on the spot, realized what he was saying out loud, that he himself is 21 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than most of his white brothers here at Point Loma,” Gates said. “Now I think about these issues all the time, not in the abstract, but with particular people I know. This is essentially important to me because it’s important to Eb.”

Tadele finished the event by saying that this issue is a PLNU issue as much as anywhere nationwide.

“We need to continue addressing this issue and moving forward as a group,” Tadele said. “We can’t do it as black only. It applies to you too. At the end of the day, we’re Christians and it is our duty to stand up against injustice.”



All photos courtesy of Jeffrey Carr