B-school Students Discuss Impact of Million Man March

by Trudy V.M. Gygi, MBA2

Last Wednesday night fifteen men and women shared their thoughts, misconceptions, and questions about the Million Man March. The Million Man March on October 16th in Washington D.C. was an all-day event initiated by Louis Farrakhan that focused on building a stronger community among African-American men. The B-school follow-up discussion was sponsored by the Michigan Diversity Council.

The group included first-year and second-year MBAs as well as one B-school alum. The dialogue was intended to be an open environment where "hot" topics could be discussed and students could learn from each other's experiences. Topics ranged from the lack of general B-school discussions about the Million Man March to the U.S. educational system.

Although no participant of the discussion had been able to join the march in D.C., the group supported the togetherness that the "marchers" seemed to portray. One of the participants said that he had spoken to men who attended the march and that one of their main take-aways was the support and friendship that the marchers had for each other.

One of the most discussed topics was whether or not one could separate the message of the Million Man March from the messenger, Farrakhan. The B-school group talked about their beliefs regarding the message of the march, Farrakhan's activities and speeches, the media's interpretation of Farrakhan's actions, and the need for a dialogue among the country's leaders.

The discussion, although beginning with the Million Man March, covered a variety of current social issues. A few of the participants shared personal stories of discrimination, and many expressed hope for the African-American community and the people of America. The group addressed the long-term implications of the march, and one person suggested that Detroit's success in curbing fires on Devil's Night was partly due to the swell of community involvement created by the march.

Another topic that the group talked about was one's individual role in bringing change to the country's race relations situation. Joan Johnson, MBA2, summarized her views, "We must always ask why. So often we focus on what and not why. One way we can each make a difference is to get involved in our educational system. Children, especially, need to be encouraged to look below the surface of what they hear and see."

Greg Johns, MBA1, said, "The goal of discussions like this is not to have everyone share the same views, but to become aware of other people's views and why they feel a certain way. We should base our views on fact and not stereotypes or misconceptions." Karen Glover, MBA2, initiated the discussion group and was pleased with the frankness of the participants. "People felt comfortable saying what they really felt," she explained.

In conclusion, the group shared their concern that the B-school is not openly discussing important current events enough. They agreed, though, that last week's small group discussion was a step in the right direction. "It was interesting that we talked about how the country really needs a dialogue. I felt that we were starting that type of dialogue here at the business school," remarked Glover. The Michigan Diversity Council is willing to sponsor more discussion groups and is open to ideas from anyone.

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