The Black Students’ Union celebrated Black Solidarity Day on Monday with a panel discussion at the Interfaith Chapel. The event focused on black leadership in the 21st century.

“Black Solidarity Day originated with ‘Day of Absence,’ a play by Douglas Tuner Ward, which explored the potential social, political and economic consequences if all black people were to disappear for a day,” BSU President and senior Marquis Harrison said.

The purpose of the day was to not contribute to capitalism – not go to work, not go to school and not to make any purchases. This absence was meant to force the government to pay attention to the black community and to problems such as poverty.

BSU encouraged their members to take part in creating this sense of absence as much as possible.

“I encouraged all members not to go to class and instead to come to the panel at that time,” Harrison said.

Members of the panel who honored this day were seniors Laura Porterfield and Anthony Ploczinksi, sophomore Porschea Lewis, religions and classics professor Anthea Butler and doctoral student from the Center for African American Politics Niambi Carter, with political science professor Fred Harris serving as the moderator.

The event began with a discussion about the current state of black leadership.

The conversation progessed to a discussion of class divisions, educational, socioeconomic and regional differences in the black community and their effects on leadership.

“The panel discussed a variety of issues, including black leadership, economic power in the black community – or the lack thereof – defining the black community, integration, immigration, diversity, as well as issues concerning youth and their concepts of cultural history,” Porterfield said.

The panel discussed topics of black leadership that related to more students.

These include the role of hip-hop in the black community.

“We discussed if hip-hop could be considered a mechanism toward leadership, and if hip-hop role models have an obligation to be leaders,” Lewis said.

The idea for the event began when BSU took a trip to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 15 to attend the Millions More March, a 10th anniversary commemoration of the Million Man March. The purpose of the march was to create a sense of unity while dealing with issues of the black community such as educational barriers and poverty.

Lewis discussed what she learned from the leaders who spoke at the march.

“Going to this type of event where the leaders were of high stature and highly educated was symbolic,” Lewis said.

About 30 people, mostly members of BSU, attended the event.

Since this was the first year that BSU celebrated Black Solidarity Day, the programs and involvement were not as big as they had hoped.

“Next year we’re going to take it a step higher,” Harrison said. “What we intend to do is create an entire day of workshops, conferences and speakers.”

BSU also plans to hold other panel discussions. The focus of the next panel topic will be the contributions of black Americans to the economy and how slavery affected the black community in relation to reparations.

“The theme of Black Solidarity Day was empowerment and unity,” Harrison said.

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