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November 09, 2017 10:02 PM

University In Sioux Falls Hosts 'To Kneel Or Stand' Panel

Sioux Falls, SD

One of the most talked-about stories over the past year has been athletes kneeling during the national anthem. Thursday night the topic took center stage at Augustana University with a panel discussion on the hot-button issue.

When KELOLAND News asked Mark Blackburn, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Augustana University, about why they were having this event, he responded to the question with his own question.

"Why not? Right?" Blackburn said. "And that's the big question here is, because you hear all this divisiveness, you hear things that's going on in our society, and nine times out of ten, people don't want to talk about it." 

That's where this event comes in.

"So this is an avenue, this is a platform of empowerment, that we can help individuals kind of understand the real reason why individuals are standing or kneeling during the national anthem," Blackburn said.

Veteran Paul Dysart Sr. of Tea was a panelist at Thursday night's event.

"It's not about the flag. It's about the way the police have treated young black people," Dysart Sr. said.

Moderator Vaney Hariri is looking at the reason behind the protests, too.

"The greater question that I would ask people is is why does it take a protest at all?" Hariri said. "Why is a protest required to do something that seems so reasonable." 

Blackburn says tonight was about providing a forum.

"Give people opportunities just to say hey, let me hear some different thoughts, some different ideas about what's going on in our society," Blackburn said.

Freshman Bjorn Slattum made a point to attend to soak up the different view points.

"I'm here 'cause I just, basically, want to hear more about it, and learn more about it, see what it's all about to other people, other than me," Slattum said.

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