Celebrating homegrown black excellence

The Black Student Union (BSU) held an event in honor of black leaders within the Amarillo and Canyon community on Feb. 24 to celebrate Black History Month. The event, which began at 6 p.m., took place in Legacy Hall, located in the Jack B. Kelley Student Center.

The panel included leaders such as Melodie Graves, the associate director of advising at Amarillo College; Chris Jackson, a West Texas A&M University alumnus and a current economic development specialist at Panhandle Regional Planning Commission (PRPC); Earl Stoudemire, a WT alumnus and current Channel 10 news reporter; and Claudia Stuart, a WT professor emeritus.

During the event, there were discussions of how race has affected the career paths of the panelists. Chris Jackson discussed the importance of not being tokenized. Tokenism is the act of pretending to care about inclusion towards minority groups. A tokenized person is used as a way to justify companies not being intentional about diversifying their workforce.

“I think the second and most important thing is not letting people use my position as a standard to judge “blackness” so to speak,” Jackson said.

The panelists also discussed the advice they had for younger people who want to achieve success. Melodie Graves talked about the need to travel because it is important for young people to see how other people live.

You have to take those chances. Whatever you are going through right now, it’s only temporary

— Melodie Graves, associate director of advising at Amarillo College

Amarillo is known to be a conservative area, and the panelists talked on how people can promote diversity in conservative areas. Earl Stoudemire discussed leadership and how to honor your character.

“You want to be on your tips and tens and toes and just be a good, genuine person,” Stoudemire said. “Keep your chin high.”

Claudia Stuart also talked of the importance of knowing what your values are and how experiences can land in your lap. Stuart went on to discuss a very interesting experience she had whilst traveling. Stuart booked a ticket in economy class but was moved up to business class.

“[I was] going home on one of my flights, and they seated me next to a CEO of Dr. Pepper,” Stuart said. “For eight hours, we talked about business.”

The CEO of Dr. Pepper offered Stuart the job of interpreting in German for his business deal, paying her $400 an hour. He wanted an American to be there so no one would spoil the deal due to the language difference.

Melodie Graves and Chris Jackson are active in encouraging the Amarillo community to promote the success of its struggling members.

Melodie Graves is running for Potter County Commissioner. Graves is working with members of the community to encourage men and women to know their worth.

Chris Jackson has also been working on projects with the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission to ensure food and housing provisions for members of the community.

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans and their successes. The panelists encouraged all students to carry on being successful and to pursue their dreams. To watch the full video, visit @theprairewt on Instagram.