More than 100 members of the community braved the elements Thursday evening to hear UM system President Elson Floyd speak on education’s role in the black community.
During his speech, titled “The Effects of Higher Education in the African-American Community,” Floyd shared personal experiences from his childhood.
He talked about growing up in a segregated elementary school in North Carolina. Even though his high school was integrated, the community was not, he said.
He described his confusion at being told by his mother that he could not play with a white friend, Billy.
“He wanted me to go play putt-putt, and I asked my mom if I could go out with Billy, and she said ‘you can’t,’” Floyd said.
Upon asking his mother why he couldn’t go, Floyd said she responded, after a long pause, by saying, “They won’t allow you to go.”
Floyd’s vision is to build a stronger university by strengthening the K-12 system that trains university entrants.
“Some of the implications within the African-American community will transcend all the members of the academy,” Floyd said. Thinking about education as a continuum starts in the K-12 environment, he said.
Those in attendance viewed his K-12 vision as an outreach to the community and a call for action.
“He has done what the university needs, to reach out to its constituency and say we need your help,” said Walter Pfeffer, an alumni association member. “His most important audience is the general assembly, where the budget and other issues will be fought.”
A number of alumni association members have been following Floyd to public events to help raise awareness of issues that the association is working toward.
Paper handouts were given to audience members to help them find their local representative and e-mail them to show support for President Floyd.
“It would have been nice to see presidents and executives boards of the majority organizations to hear such a profound speech,” said Clarence Wine, faculty adviser for the Black Business Students Association.
Wine said MU has come a long way in terms of its racial tolerance.
“There has been a remarkable difference in change and attitude; the campus is a lot more welcoming and engaging,” said Wine, who has been working at MU since 1973.