Popel Shaw Center Celebrates MLK Jr. and Black History Month

Becca Stout ’20, Staff Writer

The Popel Shaw Center for Race and Ethnicity will be kicking off 2017’s MLK Jr. and Black History Month by hosting a panel discussion entitled R-E-S-P-E-C-T, featuring Dickinson faculty and students.

The panel will be held on Feb. 6 from 6-8 p.m. in the Stern Great Room, and speakers will discuss their personal experiences with “racial respectability,” the idea that African-Americans must maintain an image of respectability defined by the white majority in order to fit into society, according to Vincent Stephens, director of the Popel Shaw Center. According to NPR, respectability politics “is the notion that problems in the black community spume from within, and that by adopting a certain lifestyle, black people can inoculate themselves from discrimination.”

All of the panelists are members of the Dickinson and Carlisle communities, says Stephens, to demonstrate that Dickinsonians need not look far to find people who have personally experienced racial respectability politics.

The event will also include a multimedia room exhibit to provide context and present research to those unfamiliar with the topics that will be discussed. The room will include articles from Ebony Magazine, an “online magazine destination for African-American cultural insight, news and perspective,” according to their website, ebony.com. Also to be displayed will be photos of scenes from historical movements and their organizing leaders  like W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr, and members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The title of the program pays tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., says Stephens, because of his important role in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement and how he portrayed respectability. According to Stephens, King’s television and media presence revealed the complex dynamics of respectability politics, and how this idea was influential in the history of the movement as a whole.

Stephens hopes the event will inspire students to question if conforming is enough, if acceptance is the goal of society, and if persuasion is necessary and how to use it.

The panelists will be D’Andre Battle ’18, an American Studies major; Kimberly McNair, an Africana Studies Postdoctoral Fellow; Tammy Owens, an Africana Studies Postdoctoral Fellow; and Naila Smith, an Assistant Professor of Psychology.

For more information on the event and the Popel Shaw Center, visit their website at https://www.dickinson.edu/homepage/72/popel_shaw_center_for_race_and_ethnicity or stop by their office in Landis House.