Vol State hosts Black History Luncheon

By: Jessica Peña, Staff Writer

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(Pictured: Guest speaker Dr. Lorianne Mitchell.  Photo by: Jessica Peña.)

Volunteer State Community College hosted the Black History Recognition Luncheon on Wednesday, Feb. 24, in the Mary Nichols Carpeted Dining Room.

The luncheon recognized historical African American figures as well as students and faculty representing their culture.

The event was coordinated by the Office of Student Life and Diversity Initiatives.

African American people like Carter G. Woodson and Barack Obama were among the topics of discussion.

“Historian Carter G. Woodson created Black History Month, but why February?

“He chose this month to honor the birth months of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln,” said Dr. Melva Black, Communications Director, Instructor of Communication.

The guest speaker for the event was Dr. Lorianne Mitchell, Associate Professor of Management in the College of Business and Technology at East Tennessee State University.

Dr. Kenny E. Yarbrough, Director of Student Life and Diversity Initiatives, introduced Mitchell, who spoke on topics including diversity and inclusion, leadership and conflict and student success.

“Don’t be afraid to be the lone voice that speaks up. Be the one that has the courage to step up and tell someone ‘Hey, that comment was a little rude,’” said Mitchell.

“We, as faculty and administrators, teach you guys by example, and you guys teach the younger ones around you by example as well,” added Mitchell.

Mitchell is Secretary of the Management Faculty of Color Association at ETSU. According to the MFCA website, the organization aims to promote and support the professional development of African American, Hispanic American and Native American business management faculty.

“I challenge my students to put themselves in an environment different from their own.

“I tell them ‘Go to a church whose religion is different than yours, go sit at a table with people you don’t normally sit with,’” added Mitchell.

Mitchell said that it can be hard for people to reach outside of what they already know and that change can be difficult and frightening when it comes to challenging culture bias and correcting disrespectful comments.

“You may be sitting at a table where everyone looks like you, yet you are the only one with a different opinion about what’s occurring and what’s being said,” said Mitchell.

Toward the end of the speech, Mitchell answered questions and concerns from the audience regarding society’s view on African American culture, as well as singer Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance.

“There are some forms of art, especially art that comes from African Americans, where it is scrutinized with an extra level of scrutiny. It’s read into so deeply,” said Mitchell.

The event concluded with a few words from Patty Powell, Vice President of Student Services.

The Black History Recognition Luncheon attracted approximately 50 people, almost doubling the Soul Food Luncheon attendance earlier this month.