BY LUCAS FERREIRA // March 1, 2018 //
An informational session concerning the Black Lives Matter movement was held earlier this week to provide a space for students to discuss current racial issues, perceptions, and differences in a safe environment.
The event was sponsored by Women and Gender Studies, the Multicultural Student Union and the Black Student Union to commemorate the six-year anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s murder, widely believed to be the starting point for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The facilitators made a point to present various images of African Americans who were also subject to deadly force by police officers.
The conversation ended up turning towards students’ and faculty’s thoughts concerning racial perceptions on campus. Such thoughts that surfaced involved how students from different backgrounds interact on campus, and multiple questions that were aimed at specific societal expectations versus those of others.
Dr. U. Melissa Anyiwo, a Politics and History professor at Curry College, attended the event and was impressed by the collective efforts of students to discuss these issues that are often considered ‘sensitive’ for normal conversations.
“I thought [that] was an incredibly effective event,” Anyiwo stated in admiration of the talk. “…but more importantly, I think we learned how to communicate with each other.”
Beyond providing general information and dispelling disinformation about the movement, students were encouraged to talk about their personal views regarding police, personal safety, school shootings, and the distance students maintain by forming comfort groups to feel included within the school.
“I feel like what came out in the room was that both students, white and non-white, are afraid to actually communicate because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing or being perceived wrong,” Anyiwo noted.
A big topic that came up during the conversation was the idea of self-segregating groups of students, and the idea that while it provides comfort to be with people of similar races or ethnicities, it does not resolve the overall problem of unifying the student body.
Forcing students to come together and acknowledge there is a problem could be a solution, however, a forceful approach by faculty and staff to help this could also prove unhelpful if students don’t feel comfortable in breaching these topics.
Anyiwo suggests that perhaps meeting once a month could be beneficial to keeping these conversations active and at the forefront of students’ minds, especially if they’re established in a respectful, controlled space with regulated rules to keep the conversation civil.
Black Lives Matter was founded by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi in 2013 after nation-wide protests erupted after the killing of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, and other notable victims of fatal force used by police.
Students present during the meeting were able to express themselves in an unguarded manner, specifically giving voices to problems on campus that normally wouldn’t be addressed, and providing the opportunity for new voices to be heard.
At the end, students were asked to write positive messages on rocks to later be placed in Westhaver Park, in front of the Student Center.
This event demonstrates that Curry College students want to be fully heard regarding diversity issues on campus, and are beginning to take that representation and voice into their own hands.