After deciding to extend #theEBONYproject into the 2015 fall semester, DeJa and I set to work brainstorming what kind of event to hold in order to keep the discussion of race prominent. Deciding against our original plan for a movie night due to the conflicting football season, we agreed we needed something simple that would still generate engagement from the LSU student body. Being that the make up of the program took roots in the social media world, we thought what better way to spark discussion than on Twitter using our now trademark hashtag : #theebonyproject.
Before getting started we realized getting people to tweet with us would be challenging especially during our set time (finals week). However, learning from past experience of low student involvement, we found a way around this barrier. Some students on campus have established a very diverse “Groupme” that includes a large number of students discussing the various topics surrounding LSU’s campus. We knew the best way to reach an audience of opinionated people was to post our questions in there and encourage the occupants to tweet with us. We strategically timed our conversation at a time we were sure all classes were over and all “must see tv” had ended for the evening. We introduced ourselves and relayed our platform and expectations for the Twitter discussion. After waiting about ten minutes for feedback or objections, we posted a screen shot of the first question and encouraged everyone to join in the discussion.
About 3o minutes passed with no responses from the members of the “Groupme”. However, we did not panic fore we had planned for low involvement. Noting that students can always appreciate an incentive, we promised the first 10 people to tweet with us a #theEBONYproject official t-shirt. Once the news was out, tweets started pouring in and the discussion got quite insightful. We documented the participants and later awarded the first 10 with their t-shirts.
Throughout our experience with #theEBONYproject, we learned a lot about our generation. Looking back on our experiences, failures included, we’ve realized the disconnect in race stems greatly from lack of understanding. A lot of the time we offer explanations, right or wrong, for things we don’t understand. We’re often instructed by our parents who were influenced by theirs and so on–thus furthering the ignorance. It’s not until outlets such as the #theEBONYproject are proactive in igniting the right conversations that examine all sides, do people realize the knowledge gap and work to close it. Through our conversations and events, DeJa and I have realized that the problem is not that students don’t want to understand the stories and struggles of other races, it’s that they’ve never been exposed to the right opportunity to do so. Many agree they would benefit from a class on campus that took the history beyond slavery to show the hardships that still occur daily. If we learned anything in our research, it’s that unity evolves from understanding. Personally we believe it’s time we start working toward achieving just that.