Higher Ups Urged to Cancel Black History Month Speaker Amidst Controversy


Sean Rad

Members of the GSA rallying around different ways to protest Dr. Umar’s Johnson’s scheduled appearance.


Jaso Bolay, Editor

Dr. Umar Johnson, certified psychologist of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, is set to visit AACC to discuss the impact of historical racism on the present generation on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

‘While Johnson’s appearance is scheduled to celebrate Black History Month and the school’s initiative to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone, The Year of Social Justice, the possibility of him coming and speaking has not been received well by some students and faculty members.

Upon doing research on Johnson, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Dr. Matt Patton brought to the members of the Year of Social Justice a few points that they had overlooked via email.

“I think you might have missed some important issues with Umar Johnson. You’re definitely going to want to dis-invite him,” said Patton in a Feb. 14 email to members of the planning committee for the Year of Social Justice. .

Patton then went on to highlight YouTube videos of some of Johnson’s speeches.

In response to Patton’s concerned emails, another faculty member, Leslie Blyther, assistant professor and program coordinator of criminal justice and homeland security management programs, accused him of racism.

“If I didn’t understand racism fully with all of its subtleties, masquerades, and pretense, I would have expected you to be professional and voice your concerns with your colleague who sponsored the event first before forwarding an impetuous and offensive email.” She wrote on Feb. 18 in an email to members of the planning committee. “But, I do understand racism and I can expect nothing from it other than what it does.”

Amongst his claims, Johnson was taped saying that he doesn’t know a single case of black sexuality or black lesbianism that he cannot trace to some kind of psychological experience in childhood or teenage years.

It is Johnson’s belief that, “just like they go into that, they can come back out.”

As a school that celebrated Coming Out Week instead of Coming Out Day, as it is nationally recognized, AACC has been making strides to make the campus a safe and open place for all of its students, so it comes as a surprise to quite a few that Johnson was chosen to come and speak; especially the members of the GSA.

“It’s just really weird that someone like him [Johnson] is going to be allowed to come on campus,” said transfer studies major and a member of the club the Gay Straight Alliance at AACC, LaTisha Ayers.

Aside from his beliefs about the LGBTQIA community, Johnson has gone on record for advising a group of young black women that in order to keep a significant other, “When a man tell[s] you to shut your mouth, you keep your mouth.”

Johnson also went on to say later during another lecture that AIDS and Ebola were manufactured as “population control extermination weapons” by the United States Army Bioweapons Lab.

The concerns of the students that are against his presence being on campus isn’t about the chosen topic of his lecture, it is about his tendency to be extreme and offensive on sensitive topics and the level of truth that his statements have.

“Everything that he says seems to be theories,” said Aaron Holt, game design major and first year student at AACC. “A gay person isn’t really gay, his views on women and his ideas about AIDS. They’re all theories. I don’t know how he’s a doctor.”

But while there are many that are against Johnson coming to AACC to speak, student Demetrius Diakhate majoring in psychology is excited.

Diakhate has been following Johnson and his work for just about a year and met him in Washington D.C. at the screening of a movie and asked him if he’d be interested in speaking at AACC. Afterwards, he introduced him to his psychology professor, Dr. Nicole Williams, coordinator of the human services department at AACC. From there on, Williams and Johnson corresponded and took it from there.

Diakhate explains that Johnson is a “Pan-African” stating that his perspective follows the beliefs of founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, Marcus Garvey and the African spiritual system. Garvey was a political leader and dedicated ambassador of Pan-Africanism.

Pan-Africanism is the idea and the movement that focuses on unifying Africans. It has been most famously linked to scholars such as W.E.B Du Bois and Malcom X.

“Before the Europeans ever stepped foot in Africa, black people did things a certain way,” said Diakhate as he expressed his concern for the way the Europeans have affected the Africans’ sexuality. “Back then, [being gay] wasn’t a trend. It was completely banned and frowned upon…Another point [Johnson makes] is that it is a white supremacists’ agenda to depopulate the undesirables [African descendants].”

Diakhate, like Johnson believe that “white” America is influencing “black” America into the LGBTQIA community in hopes of eradicating them from society.

“…If more black people are gay, then they won’t be having children,” said Diakhate. Adding, “What people need to understand is that [Johnson] is not living to please Europeans or white people. His goal is to liberate Africans from our conditioned minds.”

Both faculty members and students are seemingly split about Johnson’s presence, and he has yet to arrive.

While the efforts of the Year of Social Justice and the Black Student Union are coming from a positive place, the question that is being asked him throughout campus is whether or not they properly researched Johnson before asking to come on campus.

Upon trying to reach the coordinators of this event to hear their side of the story, the Campus Current was told that, “We have decided to not give interviews with the Current until a decision has been made…at that point [they] will be happy to talk.” They are currently trying to decide whether or not to dis-invite him.

The Current also tried to reach Patton, but he declined to sit down for an interview per request of his supervisor.

However, the GSA are ready to protest Johnson’s event should he be permitted on campus to speak as well as hold a counter event after his. The time and place are still being planned.

The GSA did reach out to the Student Government Association’s president, Chris Pineda for his help in making sure that their voice is heard.

“The more emails I get from students protesting this event, the more I can help them,” said Pineda. “I represent the student’s voice and the power of many is stronger than the power of one.”

As of Thursday, it has been announced that Jacqueline Jackson, dean of student services, James Felton, diversity officer, and Felicia Patterson will be making their decision by midday today as far as what to do.

It won’t be the first time that Johnson has been uninvited by a school after having students protest. Jefferson High School and SEI Academy, both public schools in Portland, Ore canceled his lectures because of his controversial views.

“I think that he should be cancelled and replaced with someone else who isn’t spreading a message of hate.” Said Ayers. “We have a lot of professors here on campus that are more than qualified to take his place. It doesn’t have to be him.”