Students at Emory University participate in a “die in” during a protest on campus in Atlanta on Dec. 4, 2014. (Photo: Erik S. Lesser, epa)
Students at Emory University participate in a “die in” during a protest on campus in Atlanta on Dec. 4, 2014. (Photo: Erik S. Lesser, epa)
Collected on campus

#blacklivesmatter evolves at Williams College

By Michella Ore, Class of 2016

In September 2014, Williams College students decided to take action and increase awareness of the police brutality black and brown bodies face on a daily basis. These students, mostly of color themselves, posted thought-provoking posters, ignited discussions in public and on outlets like YikYak and got the campus to start debating the topic of white privilege and institutional racism. Their efforts eventually culminated in a “die in.” While many applauded the students for their act of protest, others found it an unwelcome obstruction. Several students could be seen walking over the bodies of their peers outlined by tape in their haste to get to their next class.

A student takes part in a protest on Christian Brothers University campus on Dec. 9, 2014, in Memphis. (Photo: Mark Weber, The Commercial Appeal via AP)
A student takes part in a protest on Christian Brothers University campus on Dec. 9, 2014, in Memphis. (Photo: Mark Weber, The Commercial Appeal via AP)

Throughout the year, student activists encountered backlash because of their outspokenness. Many also confronted guilt after being told by peers that they should be grateful for what they have been given as students at such an excellent institution. Ahmad Greene, a senior, said at Williams there is the tendency to associate issues of race and racism with the world outside  the school’s “purple bubble” even though those issues are very much present on campus.

Toward the end of the year, with finals approaching and a general sense of feeling drained, fewer students engaged the Williams community on #blacklivesmatter issues. With the stress of coping with academics, the focus shifted to creating spaces for healing and community. Not too long after, students packed up and headed out. The question of how we would all feel once we got back to campus after the summer vacation was left up in the air.

This year at Williams, #blacklivesmatter continues to largely be a private mission taken on by those who are personally affected by it. Those who continue to spread the voice of #blm find support in faculty members and student-run organizations, like the Black Student Union. While there have been some actions taken toward continuing the legacy of #blm, such as acknowledgment of the adversities many students of color overcame to make it to a place like Williams and a recent show of solidarity with Mizzou students, it is clear that Williams has more work to do.

“A lot of people feel that a lot of things that are ‘black’ are just for black people … (but) the thing is, we’re looking for white advocates and white allies to get involved and hear from us. … We are really screaming and yelling for y’all to understand that we are unheard, and we are misunderstood, and we want y’all to understand us.”

Jeffery Orlando Johnson Jr., 21, George Mason University
(Collected by Sara Moniuszko)

University California Los Angeles students demonstrate in a show of solidarity with protesters at the University of Missouri on Nov. 12, 2015, in Los Angeles. Thousands of students across the U.S. took part in demonstrations at university campuses Thursday to show solidarity with protesters at the University of Missouri. (Photo: Nick Ut, AP)
University California Los Angeles students demonstrate in a show of solidarity with protesters at the University of Missouri on Nov. 12, 2015. (Photo: Nick Ut, AP)
Collected from @USATODAYcollege 

In wake of students protesting systemic racism at the University of Missouri, the university system’s president and a chancellor resigned. USA TODAY College asked its followers via Twitter using #speakoutusatc to share their experiences with racism on their campuses, and what their administrators and peers needed to understand. Here are some of their responses.

Mizzou students continue fight

After protests, a hunger strike and threats of boycotts from the football team forced both the University of Missouri System president and chancellor to resign, student body president Jonathan Butler says demands dating back to 1969 must be met.

Tim Wolfe stepped down Monday after he failed to adequately address concerns about systemic racism. Now, students are pushing for more changes, including increases in black faculty and staff, that were raised more than 40 years ago.

Butler drew a link between unaddressed demands of the civil rights era, and more recent calls for racial equality following the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., in a letter published by his college newspaper, the Missourian:

“These strategies (for diversity and inclusion) started with Lloyd Gaines back in 1935 as he pursued a law degree here at MU and was faced with racism and hate. It continued in 1939 with Lucille Bluford fighting for her right to an education. It continued in 1969 with black students fighting for their rights and demanding increases in black faculty and staff. It continued in 2014 with the creation of MU4MikeBrown.”


Reader views on the Mizzou protests and more on the ouster of Wolfe in our special Spotlight section. Join the conversation. Call 540-739-2928 or tweet #policingtheusa to leave your view.

Student tells his story after encounter with police

Martese Johnson’s encounter with law enforcement catapulted him into the middle of a national conversation about race and police brutality. He filed a $3 million civil rights suit on Oct. 21. We reached out to him to get his story.

In Part 3, shown below, Johnson talks about why he was glad the confrontation happened to him and how he became an activist.

In Parts 1 and 2 of the video, shown below, he talks about growing up on Chicago’s South Side and his encounter with police at the University of Virginia.

Police investigation

Police report
Police report

The Virginia State Police conducted an investigation into Johnson’s arrest. According to their report, witnesses say Johnson had been drinking before the incident. The investigation also confirms Johnson received lacerations that required stitches. Read more in the report, which was released Sept. 22, to the left.

 

Collected on campus

We have done marches, held vigils and spoken to the members of Northeastern community. Every move made is made with each other, reminding each other that our voice matters. Unity is not easy with other negative forces pushing us away from each other, but building real relationships with people we encounter, and keeping those relationships, intact will maneuver us to move mountains.

Rachelle Pierre, 21, Northeastern University
(Collected by Scarlett Ho)

 

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DeVicka Cheston, 19, Northeastern University: The Black Lives Matter movement has made me realize the deep importance of the community that we have through Black Student Organizations at Northeastern.  As a BSO leader, I feel even more driven to collaborate with others in order to produce events that will raise awareness of the movement to the entire student body. (Collected by Scarlett Ho)

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The #blacklivesmatter movement is not just about giving marginalized groups a voice. It is also about calling for each member of society to be educated, be aware and, overall, be caring about their communities. Though great strides have been made, in my collegiate community, there is still work to be done in order to make my Midwestern university campus a truly equal place for all individuals.

Kevin Brown, Wichita State University

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Jeffery Orlando Johnson Jr., 21, George Mason University: The first day of classes last year, we had a walk-out, where everybody got out of class, came out and marched from the top of North Plaza all the way down to the statue. We congregated and listed out all the names that we could list of unarmed African-American lives that were taken by corrupt police officers. It was rather chilling because it really added depth to how large the situation is. (Collected by Sara Moniuszko)

 

IMG_4464Video contest

We asked students to tell us what #blacklivesmatter or unity looked like on their campuses. We posted the best entries and let people vote on them by sharing them on social media. Check out the winners and the videos we received.

 

Bonaventure students analyze movement

 

GMU students on their hopes for #blacklivesmatter

 

#blacklivesmatter at Claremont Colleges

 

Towson University comes together

 

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