On October 20, the Liberal Arts Diversity Committee at the Alexandria Campus hosted its annual Dr. Joseph Windham Series on Race Relations panel discussion for students, faculty, staff and the community. More than 50 people attended the event to discuss this year’s topic, “Different Narratives and Perspectives in Mass Media.”
Panelists included Professor Lucy Gebre-Egziabher (AL); Nick “Dr. Nick” Johnson of WPFW-FM; SOZE Senior Creative Director Daniel Alejandro Leon-Davis; Geoff Bennett with the Washington Reporter and NY1 Time Warner Cable News; and Film Critic Kevin Sampson. Professor Araceli Bachner (AL) moderated the discussion.
Dr. Windham’s wife, son and one of his brothers were in attendance for the discussion as well as Provost M. Annette Haggray. Dr. Jimmie McClellan, dean of the Liberal Arts Division, opened by describing what kind of educator Dr. Windham was before he passed away in December 2014.
“Some people, when they walk into a room, they fill the space. And you know that is someone who cares about you,” McClellan said. “Such a person was Dr. Joe Windham, my friend and colleague of more than 20 years.”
Bachner introduced the panelists and started the conversation by emphasizing the roles of mass media and the affects certain images have on race relations. The panelists discussed the effects of negative images of minorities, the 2016 presidential election and the responsibilities of the gatekeepers in Hollywood, social media, radio and news reporting to be inclusive. Gebre-Egziabher added that in filmmaking and communications it’s important to provide society with more diverse images.
“As filmmakers of color, I think we have to do a little more to counter the damage the images have created in mass media,” she said. “Take control of image creation. Let’s not wait for Hollywood to figure it out. Continue to create content anyway.”
Bennett added that “there’s a difference in the way race is lived and how it’s portrayed by mass media.” Sampson also said film is very important because it shapes how we see other people and ourselves.
Students were given the opportunity to ask the panelists questions and learn more about their professions, their goals and what they contribute to changing the conversation. Leon-Davis, who is head of social media for media mogul Russell Simmons, said one of his goals is to shed light on immigrant issues. Leon-Davis said doing something about immigrant issues is something that is important to him because he was undocumented for 19 years before becoming a U.S. citizen two years ago.
The race relations discussion was funded by Student Life at NOVA. Dr. Joseph Windham was a history professor at NOVA who passed away in December 2014. He was an activist and an advocate for education for all. Windham is remembered as a leader who lived and taught with passion and purpose. Every year, the Alexandria Campus hosts the Dr. Joseph Windham Series on Race Relations and a student voices conference in his honor.
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.