In the wake of recent killings of Black citizens by police, protests have gripped the nation. In response to the current swelling of Black Lives Matter sentiment, the University of New Mexico African American Student Services is hosting a new series on Instagram called Shaking the Room featuring critical conversations with UNM Black faculty members.

Each episode tackles different necessary conversations regarding the Black experience in light of our recent climate, explained Brandi Stone, AASS director and special advisor to UNM President Garnett S. Stokes on African American Affairs.

Stone explained the title of the series.

“Shaking the room or ‘to shake the room’ is a term used in our community to have conversations that are sometimes considered uncomfortable or calling things out for what they really are. Essentially we need to get down to what’s really going on. These segments are designed to confront racism and educate the audience.”

The series kicked off June 5 with the episode called Anti-Blackness in the Media with associate professor Myra Washington of the Communications & Journalism Department.  

“Blackness is a trending topic in social media and there have been an overwhelming amount of statements, images, and other content to depict Black people all over the nation in response to the spotlight being placed on racial injustice,” Stone said.

The second segment on June 10 is an in-depth conversation on what the Black Lives Matter movement looks like while in the COVID-19 pandemic, which is also disproportionately affecting the Black community. The presentation is by associate professor Finnie Coleman of the Department of English Language and Literature.

The third segment is on reparations. Kathy Powers, associate professor of Political Science, will lead a discussion centering on her work regarding reparations at the micro and macro level.

The last segment is a Zoom conversation in which participants will have the opportunity to discuss how we move forward after the hashtag stops trending, Stone said.

Sessions will be available after the live session on the IGTV channel @unmafro on Instagram.

“The idea for the series came from a student survey. We wanted to know what type of programming they would benefit most from right now and a live Q&A session was the top recommendation. We also asked what social media platform they want us to use and we received a majority response for IG,” Stone said.

“The inception of our office was a result of students seeking a safe space to have these types of conversations on campus and with faculty and staff that looked like them. I say that to say that none of these segments are new to ‘Afro,’ as our office is designed to support the recruitment and retention of Black students on our campus and to cultivate Black Excellence through educational discourse, leadership development, and community engagement," Stone said. "These are not our first conversations on these topics, but it is perhaps the first time that our larger campus community is sharing and engaging with us and that is something we are excited about.

“The series should make people uncomfortable. In a time when #BLM is trending, we want participants to question when are they performing and when are they showing up as their authentic selves and how do we sit in that and figure out how we can do better. It's important for students and our community to understand the different ways they can continue to stay involved and push for real change as well as process their emotions after #BLM is no longer the trending hashtag. These conversations are safe spaces for participants to ask questions, learn, and engage in critical dialogue.”