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Mr. and Ms. Towers’ “More Than An Image” Panel Opens Discussion On African-American Stereotypes

By Montana Couser, Contributing Writer
Posted 8:00 PM EST, Tues., Dec. 6, 2016

Alexis Silva and Steven Ward, better known as the 2016-2017 Mr. and Ms. Towers, hosted an interactive discussion panel entitled “More Than An Image” at the Andrew Carnegie Building on Wednesday, Nov. 30. The panel focused on the negative images that perpetuate the African-American community.

Howard students Judayah Murray, Astryd Lewis, Obianuju O. Obianwu, Justin Cohen, Ashley Grey, Xavier Handy-Hamilton, Maria Mendoza and Dr. Andreas Woods were featured as panelists for the event and each shared their opinions on how to gain confidence on one’s body image, as well as advice to ignore negative comments.

The panel began when Silva asked the panelists when they began to care about their image. Obianwu said, “I started feeling self-conscious around age 12. I really looked up to Raven Symone and felt like I needed to be like her and that’s when I decided I should lose weight.”

“When I moved to America and saw mainly white women on television, I felt like I didn’t belong,” Mendoza said.

Another question that was asked during the discussion was how they felt about social media and if they thought it made an impact on people’s lives.

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“I think Instagram has a positive and negative impact,” said Lewis. “I think it’s good to have body goals, but at the same time, don’t look up to unrealistic people such as Kim Kardashian or Blac Chyna, because they obviously aren’t what an average person looks like.”

Woods said, “Children don’t feel embarrassed or self-conscious until they are older. Once they get exposed to the media they feel like they need to portray a certain image.”

The discussion further continued about the negative perceptions of African-American and how, in some cases, reverted back to being desirable and trendy. Panelists also discussed about Black men and women being stereotyped in the media, while other races have duplicated the things for which African-Americans are ridiculed for.

In closing, panelists decided to share some advice on how to overcome insecurities and to remain positive.

“Your self identity is a process. It’s ok if you don’t have the same opinions you had yesterday,” Grey said.

Those in the audience appreciated the panel being able to discuss a topic that further enlightened them in moving forward.

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“I’m in the process of becoming more confident, knowing I’m good enough, and focusing on self-care and this event helped me realize that people will accept me and that nobody thinks about the way I look more than I do,” said Jessica Joseph, a sophomore nutritional science major.

“This was very uplifting, and there’s a lot of things I’ve been struggling with and in the process of recovering from, so it was nice to hear some words of encouragement,” said Tinotenda Muchenje, a freshman biology major. “This helped me gain more confidence and self-assurance with who I am.”

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