Equity in and out of the classroom

By Jessica Stamp

Students had the chance to meet Jamila Lyiscott and learn about culturally inclusive communications Oct. 20 in the Rossi Room of Kilcawley Center. The event was put together by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Lyiscott, a professional communicator and author, spoke to Youngstown State University students about how the background of education has a darker cultural history.

“I’ll be doing a keynote that will be focusing on the ways that education and schooling and teaching is rooted in legacies of colonialism and that contributes to racial inequity,” Lyiscott said.

Lyiscott mentioned her book, “Black Appetite. White Food: Issues of Race, Voice and Justice Within and Beyond the Classroom,” during the presentation because of its significance of white privilege’s impact toward students of color and its effect on them in and out of school.   

“I want students — particularly students of color — to be mindful of how to advocate for the kind of schooling environments that they deserve,” Lyiscott said. “To make sure that they have the tools for reflecting on exposing and acting against anything that contributes to racial inequity and racial harmony.”

Another point Lyiscott focused on was colonialism. Lyiscott wanted to point out how present and dangerous its effects are for students of different backgrounds and to inform those students how valuable they are in the classroom.

“It’s important that we know how to truly affirm and value all students of [all] backgrounds because in our nation, when we talk about access, when we talk about equity in schools. Sometimes we forget that access needs to mean that everybody in the space is valued and validated for their cultures and identities and not necessarily just conform to one identity,” Lyiscott said.

Carol Bennett, assistant provost for the Office of the DEI, said Lyiscott can give students the tools to teach them how to look at internal problems that need to be addressed. 

“[Lyiscott] uses her academic intellect and her creativity as a spoken word artist to talk about how language and communication … can hinder an individual in the classroom, especially if you use a colonizing language that is oppressing people,” Bennett said. “[Lyiscott] provides strategies on how to circumvent that.”

Bennett also said she hopes students can learn from Lyiscott and have the ability to speak out in a classroom setting if there was something said by a professor in an offensive manner. 

Susan Moorer, assistant director for Multicultural and Outreach Services for the Office of the DEI, wanted to bring more awareness to cultural discussions and believed students could learn from Lyiscott’s expertise.

“[Lyiscott] could bring a great insight to [intercultural communications],” Moorer said. “[the Office of the DEI] wants to bring light on diversity issues and discussions and it’s only going to make our whole university campus stronger.” 

The DEI is hoping to bring more speakers like Lyiscott to YSU to give voice to an individual’s experience and how it can shape people’s worldview.  

Lyiscott appreciated being able to come to YSU to talk about these types of conversations.