UBORA Men of IUP present alumni Donte Palmer

UBORA Men of IUP brought Donte Palmer to campus to talk about his life and work, as well as his transition from life at IUP to becoming a national figure through Squat for Change. 

On Tuesday, April 19, the UBORA Men of IUP invited IUP alumnus Donte Palmer for an evening to discuss his journey from being an IUP student to becoming a national figure.

Palmer graduated from IUP in 2009 with a degree in Communication and a minor in Theater. He rose to fame as the founder and principal of Squat for Change, an international advocacy group working to change how society views the role of fathers.

Squat for Change began in 2018, initially with the intent to push for the installation of diaper-changing tables in public restrooms; including the men’s room, considering that most of the few public restrooms that do have diaper-changing tables are usually just for women. The organization has since expanded its mission to represent all parents, but especially fathers.

When talking about the early days of Squat for Change, Palmer detailed his care to have conversations with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure they would be included in his efforts. Palmer explained that while he is not part of the community, he believes that parental love for their children is something all parents can relate to.

“It is important to sit and have these sorts of conversations and at least attempt to understand what it is like,” Palmer said. “Because at the end of the day we want to support parents no matter what kind of parent you are.”

“[As a matter of fact] that’s why we are not political,” Palmer added. “I don’t care if you are a Republican, a Democrat, conservative or liberal; we all can agree that parenthood is important, and that we need to change the narrative, so more parents are present in the lives of their children.”

Palmer also addressed the next steps for Squat for Change. The organization is already present in both the United States and Canada, but will soon start campaigns in the United Kingdom, Russia, and South Africa.

The challenge, Palmer says, is figuring out what are the needs in which country as it is not necessarily the same as the United States. Palmer said that, for example, when listening to advocates from South Africa they have told him that the main priority for them is to make food and other necessary resources more widely available for all.

The ultimate goal for Squat for Change, however, is to get to visit the White House and get Congress to pass a federal law requiring changing stations in all public restrooms. The organization has already convinced some state and local governments to pass such a bill at the small level, but they would like to see it take place federally.

When reflecting on how far he has already come, Palmer said that he believes he would not have come this far if it wasn’t for IUP.

“If it wasn’t for IUP I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Palmer said. “If you don’t love IUP now, just wait until a couple years after you graduate, and you will realize that you actually did love it.”

Palmer then took the time to express his gratitude to the IUP personnel that made his experience so memorable and who encouraged him to do well. Palmer mentioned Dr. Malaika Turner, who is currently IUP’s Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, as one of his mentors. Dr. Turner is also an IUP alumna, having graduated in 1995 according to the IUP Alumni website.

Palmer also recognized Pastor Melvin Jenkins, or “PJ” as Palmer called him, as another of his biggest influences at IUP. Prior to talking about Dr. Jenkins, Palmer had not realized that the pastor and retired professor was actually in the audience. Upon realizing this, Palmer got quite emotional and even shed a tear.

“[Jenkins] was like our grandfather when I was here,” Palmer said. “He helped the community stick together.”

“I never thought I’d be on stage speaking in front of PJ,” Palmer commented.

Despite his fun memories, Palmer did have some regrets regarding his time as an undergraduate student. According to him, he wishes he would have connected with more people during his time at IUP, instead of solely going to classes and back to his room to hang out with friends.

His advice to current students is to not repeat his mistakes and take advantage of at least one of the hundreds of clubs and organizations offered at IUP. Palmer claims that organizations on campus “make networking a lot easier” because a student gets to connect with people who share interests and somewhat similar mindsets as themselves.

According to the IUP Admissions website, there are over 250 clubs and organizations at IUP, including The UBORA Men of IUP (UMI), the organization that sponsored his visit.

Named after a Swahili word that could be translated to English as “excellence,” “quality,” or “superiority,” the focus of UMI is to help Black and Brown men at IUP “to recognize their inherent worth and realize their full potential,” as described at the organization’s Crimson Connect.

Per the organization’s Crimson Connect, some of its signature programs include Some of its "Sunday Dinners" offered several times each semester and its "UMI Speaker Series" featuring prominent IUP and HBCU alumni.

Male students who are interested in getting more information about UMI may do so by contacting the organization’s president, Malik Turner at xxgcc@iup.edu.

As for Mr. Palmer, he concluded the evening by expressing his desire of getting an honorary doctorate from IUP.

“IUP will get me an honorary doctorate degree; I am manifesting it,” Palmer said.

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