Dennard welcomes student discussion during talk series

Ria Parikh | Staff Writer

One woman’s message has people talking.

On February 21, Innovation Specialist at Design Impact and Cincinnati City Council candidate Tamaya Dennard spoke to Mason High School students as part of the Mason Inclusion Club Lecture Series. Dennard has been speaking in schools for five years, and she said that the main message she wants to convey to students is to support others and be sensitive to what offends them.

“Just be humane, and support each other above everything else,” Dennard said. “It’s important for us to be in relationship with each other, because if we are in relationship with each other, we’re less apt to say offensive things and more apt to be able to learn.”

The presentation was formatted as a discussion rather than a lecture, and Dennard said that she does it that way because it is important to keep in touch with the values and opinions of every student.

“If I can’t understand what young people think, I can’t address issues and help understand what’s happening, ” Dennard said. “I want to hear what young people think. It’s important to me because there’s a perspective and a solution that I just don’t have that young people have.”

Sophomore Andrew Carter said despite there being disagreements, he thought overall Dennard’s message was a good one, and the discussion was able to remain calm and professional.

“There were a lot of disagreements within the people in the audience,” Carter said. “But people talked through it pretty calmly, and they tried to give their ideas from their backgrounds and spread what they thought was right.”

Sophomore Jason Zhang said that he liked the respectfulness of the disagreement and Dennard’s willingness to discuss them.

“It was just polite disagreement,” Zhang said. “At least she asked questions, and you could respond, and she talked to (the students) which is good. It’s always better to have an intelligent discussion rather than throwing your ideas in an empty chamber.”

Zhang said that he agreed with Dennard’s message of helping others but not with her stance on how heavily what offends them should weigh.

“I agree that everyone can do something to help those in need,” Zhang said. “I disagreed with a lot of things about assigning privilege and how we should hold people to what they’re offended by. I don’t think you should base things off of subjective standards. Being offended is entirely subjective; you can’t quantify that.”  

Dennard said that she enjoys speaking in schools because she likes speaking to a diverse group of students and hearing about their different experiences.

“I love the diversity in the room,” Dennard said. “That’s one thing I love more than anything else. I think this room is so beautiful because of the people in it and their different experiences, and that’s why I love doing this.”

From the discussion format, Dennard said that she learned about challenges that young people face and how knowledgeable they are about history.

“Today I learned about the things that challenge people, what they think,” Dennard said. “A lot of times, people think that young people are removed from history, and they don’t really appreciate things that happened historically in our country, so it gives me an appreciation for the young perspective that I just don’t get every day.”

Dennard said that she hopes students continue to learn about each other after the presentation.

“I think this is a great school, and I love people’s bravery,” Dennard said. “I hope that people continue to talk to each other beyond this and recognize that we are more alike than unalike.”