Students resume diversity talks with documentary

Students listen intently to an audio media presentation concerning community within the Northwestern study body.

Hillary Back/The Daily Northwestern

Students listen intently to an audio media presentation concerning community within the Northwestern study body.

Cat Zakrzewski, Campus Editor

A group of Northwestern students called on their peers to “wake up” and challenge the status quo surrounding diversity and inclusion on campus Monday, showing an audio documentary that questioned the University’s treatment of underrepresented groups.

The documentary, titled “Nommo,” follows six black and Latino students as they navigate academic and social life at NU. The screening, held in Annenberg Hall, was promoted as the latest chapter in a campus conversation about diversity that was re-energized by a 100-student march and protest two months ago.

“There’s an overwhelming sense of apathy that I feel … within most of our communities,” SESP senior Kerease Epps said. “My mom always taught me that silence is permission. By not speaking up, we speak on allowing that to continue to happen and replicate itself.”

The documentary, named for the Swahili translation of “the power of the word,” touched on various aspects of the multicultural student experience. The 30-minute production began with students’ perceptions about NU before they arrived campus and then delved into how those ideas changed over time.

Epps, Weinberg junior Lucia Leon, Weinberg junior Jay Jordan, Weinberg senior Michael Guerrero, Medill senior Nicky Nicholson-Klingerman and Weinberg sophomore Raul Azucen shared personal anecdotes in the documentary, which was compiled by Dallas Wright (Medill ’12).

Wright “wanted us to be able to voice our issues and build a support network,” Epps said.

Some of the students spoke about campus security guards asking for their WildCARD when they re-entered dorms at night while their white peers walked by unchecked, even while intoxicated. When she was on the cheerleading team, Epps said she felt excluded by the other girls who did not offer to drive her to practice.

After the production, the more than 50 attendees broke off into smaller discussion groups, where they addressed questions the students had used to advertise the event on flyers throughout campus.

Leon said most of the questions did not have easy answers.

“Some people might have felt tricked,” Leon said. “That was intentional. It is meant to make people think.”

One of the questions asked “Where’s Michael Collins?”, a reference to the NU maintenance worker who said he found a black teddy bear hanging from his desk last year. The screening’s organizers said they have not heard from Collins since he made an appearance at the February march.

In addition to pointing out questions the students want to continue to pursue, the discussion groups also provided an outlet for students to voice their own experiences and responses to the documentary. Conversation topics ranged from the lack of mental health resources at NU to the challenges of being a gay man in the black community.

The documentary and the discussions left off on a note that will be addressed at four upcoming community talks and a letter-writing campaign at The Black House on Friday afternoon.

“What are we going to do?” read the screen at the conclusion of the documentary.