Spillers talks diversity solutions for campus at African American Heritage event

Analiese Gerald

The University of Alabama continued honoring African American History Month on Wednesday with an event featuring a talk from SGA President Elliot Spillers and a performance by Alabama Forensic Council, the UA competitive speech and debate team.

Crossroads, First Year Council and SGA came together to host this event, which took place in the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library.

Resha Swanson, freshman, member of First Year Council and student assistant at the Capstone Center for Students’ Success, played a key role in coordinating the event. She said she “wanted to open people’s minds to the fact that we do have powerful minority leaders on campus… I really want people to learn from this experience and really take away what diversity can do for our campus and for us as individuals.”

Cassie Rogers-Buchanan and Brandi White from the Forensic Council kicked off the event with a duo interpretation performance called a program where the performers weave multiple written pieces together to fabricate an argument.

“Our basic argument is that the Black Lives Matter movement is not inclusive to black women, and so we used the entire performance to show how they’ve excluded black women and what that does – the detriment it causes within the movement,” said Rogers-Buchanan, a communication studies and psychology major.

Rogers-Buchanan and White’s performance earned an enthusiastic applause from the audience.

“The performance was outstanding. I definitely think it’s a narrative that needs to be told,” said junior Terrance Lewis.

Next, Spillers took the floor. Spillers is the second African American SGA President in the University’s history, elected nearly 40 years after the first, Cleo Thomas.

Spillers talked about his experience at the University, describing all his attempts at being involved on campus, eventually leading to his election as SGA president. He talked about his reasons for running and plans for bettering the campus.

“I knew that I had a vision for this campus, and it was one where we were unified, a place where we could be black, brown, gay, straight, and all of our stories were one,” he said. “The intersection of ideas and possibilities is embraced and not shunned.”

The SGA president had a clear theme of bringing unity to campus in all forms, especially between minorities and majorities and Greek and non-Greek.

Following his talk, Spillers opened the floor to questions and discussion, in which guests eagerly partook. Participants’ questions focused on how SGA was going to implement Spillers’ visions and how the African American community as well as everyone on campus could help in ending racism at the University.

Spillers shared several of his ideas, including creating a space for African American organizations to gather, delaying freshman rush for the Greek system so that they begin their college experience more integrated with the whole campus, and creating a Vice President position that specifically oversees diversity, equity and inclusion.

These proposals spurred more discussion and questions from the guests. Members of the audience voiced their support, and others called for even more action, asking questions while giving their own ideas and opinions.

Lewis participated in the discussion several times.

“I enjoyed the event. The conversation is definitely one that needs to be had… but I more so want to see a little bit more action than to have these conversations regarding race over and over again,” he said.

The event had a turnout of around 30 guests of mixed backgrounds. The discussions following the Forensic Council’s performance and Spillers’ talk showed the passion, not only of Spillers and councilmembers but of guests as well, for ending division of any kind at the University.