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"Who Is Responsible for
the African American Poor?"

Cal State Fullerton to Host April 13 Forum

March 29, 2006 :: No. 188

In 2005, comedian Bill Cosby berated the African American community for the number of unplanned pregnancies, poor parenting, crime and high dropout rates among poor African Americans. A year later, he was the topic of Michael Eric Dyson’s book Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind? Dyson, a University of Pennsylvania professor, became concerned that Cosby’s comments would shut down effective discussion on solutions to some of the problems Cosby addressed.

With this in mind, the African American Resource Center at Cal State Fullerton is hosting a town hall-style public forum, “Who is Responsible for the African American Poor?” from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13, in the Titan Student Union.

“We wanted to invite a panel of academics, students and community leaders to address these concerns,” said Julie Stokes, associate professor of Afro-ethnic studies and director of the university’s African American Resource Center. “Our plan is to have our panel members speak for about 45 minutes and then have lots of time for questions and discussion.”
           
“The issue of who is responsible for the poor came to the forefront for many Americans after Hurricane Katrina,” said Davida Hopkins-Parham, executive assistant to the vice president for academic affairs and one of the event organizers. “For many, seeing the victims of the hurricane created an awareness that poverty in America, particularly among African Americans, is a very real issue today.”
           
Panelists include: Lezlee Hinesmon-Matthews, a lecturer at Cal State Long Beach who worked for more than 10 years in the field of urban planning and community economic development; Jamie Wilson, assistant professor of Afro-ethnic studies at Cal State Fullerton; Clyde Woods, assistant professor at UC Santa Barbara who specializes in the study of urban poverty and culture; Kristine Wright, a sociology lecturer at UC Irvine; Nnamdi Okafor, Western region vice president of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity; Stacy Ellis, a student member of Cal State Fullerton’s Sistertalk; and Marty Sellers, singles and young adult director at the Friendship Baptist Church of Yorba Linda. The facilitator for the event is Sabrina Sanders, acting director of athletic academic services at Cal State Fullerton.
           
“We hope to look at topics ranging from individual responsibility to societal problems and pressures,” said Stokes. “We hope that by providing a forum where people can discuss ideas and issues, we can address some misunderstandings and move on from a position of finger-pointing and come up with ways to address different problems.”
           
In fact, Stokes hopes to continue the dialogue by focusing on whether there is a need for Black History Month, the role of the black church in African American culture, as well as who and where are the leaders and servants of the African American community.
           
The forum is co-sponsored by Cal State Fullerton’s Afro-Ethnic Student Association, African American Resource Center, Afro-Ethnic Studies Department, African American Faculty and Staff Association, and the Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance.
           
The forum is open to all and free of charge. Public parking on campus is $5 per vehicle. Additional information is available at 657-278-3230.

# # #

Media Contacts
Julie Stokes, African American Resource Center, at 657-278-3845 or jstokes@fullerton.edu
Valerie Orleans, Public Affairs, 657-278-4540 or vorleans@fullerton.edu

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