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January 17, 2014

Diversity Scholar’s Event educates residents

NORMAN — Students, professors and the community learned about the importance of diversity Thursday night at the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education’s Diversity Scholar’s Event.

A panel of international students kicked off the evening. Students from China, Malawi, Colombia and Ukraine spoke about challenges and benefits of being international students.

Ana Melendez, from Colombia, said the biggest challenge she faced while in the U.S. was the language.

“I thought I knew English until I got here,” Melendez said, but she emphasized that being in the U.S. made her a better communicator.

Fellow panelist Keren Liu, from China, also said language had been a challenge, and she learned that language goes far beyond grammar and pronunciation.

“Language is the windows of a house. If I can speak different languages, I can see the world outside from different angles and perspectives,” Liu said.

Celebration of diversification continued after the panel discussion, as first-graders from Reagan Elementary entertained event attendees by singing songs in French.

Next, keynote speaker Kamesha Spates discussed black women and suicide.

Spates is assistant professor of sociology at Kent State University. Her research covers minority and ethnic relations, race and crime, mental health and suicide.

Spates’ talk, “What Don’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger: Black Women on Suicide,” focused on the protective factors that deter black women from committing suicide.

Spates said black women have consistently had the lowest suicide rates. In 2010, 22.6 white men per every 100,000 of the general population committed suicide, while only 1.8 black women per every 100,000 of the general population committed suicide.

Spates said she was intrigued as to why black women have such a low rate of suicide, even though factors suggest that the rate of suicide in black women would be as high or higher than white men.

Spates’ study is important because black women have been under-represented in previous suicide studies, and the factors that stop black women from committing suicide could be useful in lowering suicide rates in other groups, such as the military, she said.

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