Speaker Eboné Bell guides Viterbo students to be better allies


Calum Sullivan, Assistant Editor

“I’m here to remind you all how powerful you are,” said Eboné Bell, guest speaker brought in by Viterbo’s Breaking Barriers Diversity club to talk about allyship. On October 12, 2021, Bell addressed students gathered in Nursing Center 196, reminding them that, among other things, “The actions and the things we can do are right at our fingertips.” Bell spoke at length about her experience as a Black woman in the LGBTQ+ community and gave practical steps for how every student could be a better ally to those around them. Bell emphasized the need for everyone to practice their allyship, stressing that she also needed to practice allyship to communities she is not part of. “It takes practice, it takes awareness and it takes understanding,” Bell said early in her talk.  

Bell defined allyship as “the practice of emphasizing social justice: inclusion and human rights by an in group to advance the interest of an outgroup (oppressed or marginalized).” She went on to give in groups five action steps to take in order to support out groups in our society. Bell’s five steps included service, research, socio-political, listening, and assessment of local needs.  

While not directly dismissing the point, Bell was impressed by Viterbo’s commitment to service as a university. She moved through this action step quickly but stressed the need for allies to donate their time to causes that benefit communities less privileged than them.  

Bell emphasized the need for knowledgeable conversation in her next point, discussing research. “The best way for you to show up is your voice and conversations,” Bell said. While she was insistent on people understanding the causes they were making a stand on, Bell also acknowledged the limited time allies have. “Start somewhere… if there is a cause you really care about, arm yourself with the knowledge,” Bell said, and encouraged allies that they didn’t need to know everything about every single cause available to them.  

Bell stressed the effectiveness of writing letters and signing petitions in her next action step, speaking about socio-political involvement. Bell brought to mind the “Bathroom Bill” enacted in North Carolina in 2018, forbidding transgender people from using bathrooms that matched their gender identity. In this case, Bell emphasized North Carolina’s allies strong stance against the bill and its ability to divert almost 3 billion dollars from the state and eventually overthrow the bill. “People tend to listen to you more than the people you’re supporting,” Bell said, and stated that the engagement of allies in the political sphere is vital to creating change.  

Bell insisted that allies root their work in the place they live. Assessment of local needs is a vital step, according to Bell, and there’s one easy way to do it. “We are going to spend money the rest of our lives… who are you doing business with?” Bell said, going on to stress the need to support local businesses led by minorities. While we might not be able to single-handedly save a business, our support is important, and we have a power and a responsibility as consumers, according to Bell.  

The last action bell called on all allies to use, was their power of listening. “We have to start believing people… [and] we have to start validating and listening with empathy.” Bell stressed the need to listen and believe others and to truly empathize with them. “People want to be heard and seen. That’s it,” said Bell.  

Bell closed with a call for all allies to start in the place closest to home: their inner social circle. Bell stressed the need to “call it out now, not a few months down the road,” and to speak up when something doesn’t sound or feel right. Bell’s practical list of tools are a great resource for anyone looking to improve their allyship, and access to a recorded version of her talk can be found on Viterbo’s website until November 10.