Controversial speaker headlines Black History Lecture at Morgan State

Benjamin McKnight

High energy, differing opinions and controversial statements filled the room as panelists debated issues of African-American history and steps toward economic growth, Wednesday.

Members of the Morgan State University and local community filled the University Student Center ballroom on as social commentator and self-proclaimed “Prince of Pan-Africanism” Umar Johnson as well as Morgan professors Natasha Pratt-Harris and Paul Archibald, discussed a wide range of topics relating to history of African-Americans and economic development.

“There are many discussions among people like us that believe the immigration policies do not affect us [black people],” said Pratt-Harris as she popped the conversation off when responding to the impact of immigration laws against black people. “The whole idea of black folk not doing anything is physiological babble convincing us we are not doing anything and we are. We need to change the narrative.”

The conversation changed and so did the attention of Student Government Association’s leaders as panelists focused on former President Barack Obama and black people in America during the eight years under his administration.

“What cost are you willing to pay? We want freedom, but what cost are we willing to pay for it? You are going to have disrupt a major American system in order to get the attention of the president,” said Johnson. “We made a very big mistake during the Obama presidency and that was never ever calling on the president of the United States to do a single thing for black people, just because he was black.”

“Getting the attention of a disconnected president of the United States is difficult at best,” Pratt-Harris said in response. “Getting the attention of my favorite president – I don’t know about you – President Obama, would’ve been difficult at best. One of the sacrifices he has made was just being the first black president.”

Johnson also fixed a perplexing look as Pratt-Harris said, “We have always coexisted with white people. We have survived the middle passage with white folks steering the ship. We have gotten to plantations were white folks were the masters. We have continued with our time in the U.S. coexisting with white people.” In an attempt to quiet down the growing level of noise from audience, SGA president Joy Joelene-Griffin reminded the crowd to “respect the speaker.”

Through the plethora of topics, from building credit unions to receiving reparations, each panelist contributed to the discussion with challenging points of views while accepting others’ points.

“The discussion was good. It is okay to disagree; listening to my colleagues, I remained unemotional and if I felt different about something I explained why and that’s what this is all about,” said Archibald. “I was impressed with the maturity of our students. I noticed them critically-thinking about some of the claims made and that is what this is supposed to evoke. That is what college is all about.”