'Reel Diversity' arrives at Penn State Abington

Brian C. Johnson lived up to his promises -- he put the fun back into diversity and multiculturalism for Penn State Abington students last week.

Interspersed with clips from popular comedies such as Made of Honor and Daddy Day Camp, Johnson’s Reel Diversity presentation kept about 75 students laughing uproariously at the films. Meanwhile, Johnson successfully used them as a reminder that stereotypes are not funny and almost always harmful.

The gregarious preacher, author and teacher asked the audience to eschew categories and discover intersections, places where they find common ground with others.

“I am a male. I am a black male. I am a black male Christian. I am a black male Christian from Pennsylvania. I am a black male Christian from Pennsylvania who speaks English,” he said. “Every time I add another description, I drill down closer to finding a place where you and I might have a connection.”

Johnson, a well-known speaker on diversity issues, prompted the audience to consider the reluctance to discuss differences in race, gender and sexual orientation. One student replied, “Fear. Fear of standing out or doing the wrong thing.”

Johnson’s advice to the faculty, staff and students gathered for the event in Lubert Commons: “Give people a chance to make cultural mistakes without vilifying them for what they have said and done,” he said.

He said the meaning behind the standard greeting among characters in the film Avatar, “I see you,” is something we should adopt. It is a way of acknowledging the whole person and our common humanity, he said.

Johnson’s appearance is the second of five iLife lectures as part of the Penn State Abington Lecture Series scheduled for this fall. The remaining topics include:

-- Social Equity for All: Lt. Dan Choi’s story of courage, integrity, honesty and selfless service in the face of adversity on Oct. 18.

-- Rise of the Cheezburger Empire: Successful Webpreneur Ben Huh offers key lessons for creating the next big thing in the online world on Nov. 17.

-- Does Cyber-Smoke Reach the Gods?: Nicole Karapanagiotis explores the phenomenon of online religious rituals on Dec. 1.

The Penn State Abington Lecture Series is sponsored by the Academic Environment Committee, LEAP (Lares Entertainment and Programming) and the Division of Student Affairs, and funded by the student activities fee.

For more information on upcoming lectures go to www.abington.psu.edu/currentstudents or visit Abington LEAP on Facebook.