Body image forum promotes open discussion


Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 10:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 10:39 p.m.

Monique Wilson sat with her legs crossed and began to share a story from her childhood.

When she was younger, she said, she lived in an all-white neighborhood and always wore turtleneck sweaters in an attempt to cover up her race.

"I just remember being in that situation where I was like, 'I'm the only one here,'" she said.

She was one of about 25 students who attended the Black Body Image Forum at the Institute of Black Culture Tuesday night.

The forum, hosted by the University of Florida's Black Graduate Student Organization, featured lectures from Ken Nunn and Patricia Hilliard-Nunn and open talks about relationships, racism, religion and more. The event is part of the organization's Spring Week.

Students asked questions, chimed in with their opinions and challenged each other at times.

Wilson, a first-year law student, said she thought the event was successful because it allowed for discussions about diversity issues.

"It's easy to forget that we're being bombarded with things all the time and take the status quo as the way things should be," she said.

Hilliard-Nunn, a lecturer in UF's African-American studies program, spoke on topics like cultural movements, media and skin bleaching and how they've affected black culture. She spoke about how these things can affect children.

"We're losing our babies because of this nonsense today," she said. "The way they feel about their blackness is alarming."

Event organizer Chestine Libema said the BGSO hosted the forum to encourage positive thoughts about beauty, self-image and relationships.

"We wanted to raise awareness among the black student community regarding body image," she said.

She said the purpose of the event wasn't to sway anyone or change opinions.

"We just wanted to have an open discussion," she said.

Nunn, a UF law professor, said he spoke at the forum because students are his No. 1 priority.

"I want to make sure the next generation of scholars we need in this country and community are well-prepared," he said in an interview.

Nunn spent a lot of his presentation discussing relationships and family structure.

"It's really healthy for the African-American community both inside and outside of the community to encourage healthy relationships," he said.

Matthew Wade, a 22-year-old telecommunication senior at UF, told the group about hearing his younger sister say she didn't want to be black anymore because her classmates made fun of her for her race.

"It really hurt my heart," he said.

Wade said he came to the event because a friend invited him. He said he enjoyed talking about race and what it means to be black.

"It's a discussion that needs to be had," he said. "I definitely enjoyed the intimacy of it."

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