Angela Rye knows the U.S. is moving toward two societies: one black, one white, and she’s exasperated.
She believes African Americans’ position in the country has remained the same because nobody has continued fighting for the equality that Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned 50 years ago.
“I can’t help but be deeply frustrated about how far we have yet to go,” she said.
About 200 UF students and faculty members came Tuesday night to listen to the CNN political commentator and NPR political analyst. The Black Student Union and the Women’s Student Association hosted Rye in the University Auditorium to celebrate the closing ceremony of Black History Month and the opening ceremony of Women’s History Month, said Rebecca Kravitz, the president of WSA.
The organizations chose Rye because she was a leader and a woman of color, Kravitz said.
“We wanted someone that would be able to talk about the intersectionalities between race and gender and how it impacts someone who is in a position of power,” the UF psychology and women’s studies senior said.
The organizations paid $20,000 to bring Rye to UF, the 22-year-old said. The cost was split between Black Student Union and Women’s Student Association, which are both student organizations funded by Student Government.
On stage, Rye said black people have struggled in home ownership, unemployment and incarceration because they seek the wrong things.
African Americans shouldn’t pursue equality and justice, she said. They should seek power instead.
“You cannot achieve purpose. You cannot achieve equality. You cannot achieve justice, even, with no power to do so,” she said.
Rye said racism has hindered the country’s progress.
“The fact that systemic oppression is alive, well, and real and has caused some tremendous injustices and has prevented our ability to achieve purpose is a real thing, and we have to address it,” she said.
Rye encouraged the audience to get involved in political activism because politics impacts everyone’s daily life.
“At some point we have to acknowledge that we are standing in our own ways,” she said. “It might require real unity, real commitment.”
Kassidy Wallace, a 21-year-old UF visual arts senior, attended the event and said it’s important to talk about issues affecting African Americans.
The talk was held near the end of Black History Month, which is February, and toward the beginning of Women’s History Month, which starts Thursday. Wallace said she felt Rye unified both groups.
As an African American woman, Wallace said the event meant a lot for her.
“Celebrating Black History Month at UF is important because it is a predominantly white institution, so being able to have a very visible celebration is something very important to me,” she said.
Rye, a liberal political commentator on CNN and an NPR political analyst, was the keynote speaker at Black History Month’s Closing Ceremony and Women’s History Month's Opening Ceremony on Tuesday.