The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Black Lives Matter

How a student protest stopped traffic to stop violence against the black community

By Kiana Porter ’19

On Friday, Sept. 23rd just as the Barbelin bell was about to strike noon, 12 Saint Joseph’s University students, including myself, gathered together on the edge of Lapsley Lane. Alim Young, ’19, walked down the street with a professional camera slung around his neck and a tripod in hand as we waited for further instructions.

On any other day our gathering might have appeared normal, as if we were a few kids going to class. But that day our group of mostly black students wearing all black certainly caught more than a few people’s attention. On cue, Alim yelled for all of us to get in the street.

As you know, City Avenue is always bustling, with drivers eager to get where they are going, sometimes not caring about who’s in the way. Usually students scramble to get across the street before the light turns green, but not us.

We stopped right in the middle of traffic.

Across the country, college students much like ourselves were participating in what was being referred to as National Blackout Day in solidarity and remembrance of the black lives lost at the hands of police.

An article published in The New York Times written by Damien Cave and Rochelle Oliver, titled “The Raw Videos That Have Sparked Outrage Over Police Treatment of Blacks,” gives a list of a handful of black men and women who were victims of police brutality over the past two years. Included in this list is actual footage of the events unfolding. Though the list does not include all of the cases, it is still extensive. In his article, Cave quotes Paul D. Butler, who currently teaches law at Georgetown University and previously worked as a prosecutor: “A lot of white people are truly shocked by what these videos depict; I know very few African-Americans who are surprised.”

For many older people in the black community, rampant police brutality and blatant displays of racism without consequence is very reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement. Recently, Marc Lamont Hill, who is a journalist, author, and a professor of African American studies at Morehouse College visited Democracy Now, an independent news program, to discuss police brutality.

“What we’ve seen over the last 48 hours is just a reenactment of a very, very, very common American tradition of not only killing black bodies, but also, then going out and justifying the death by criminalizing the victim, by demonizing the victim, by marginalizing the victim and by constructing narratives about how and why they deserved what they got,” Hill said.

Similarly, many of my elders have referred to the cases of African Americans who have died at the hands of police as “modern day lynching.” In most instances the only crime the victims have committed is that of being black in the wrong place at the wrong time. Social media has played a major and essential role in capturing these cases of injustice, making sure they don’t get covered up, ignored, and forgotten despite their gruesome nature. Social media has also been a key in organizing nationwide movements, protests, and calls for justice similar to National Blackout Day.

This demonstration, as well as the current events that have led up to it, past and present, affected us all in many different ways. For me, personally, it was crazy that just a few days before National Blackout Day a white pickup truck was driving up City Avenue with a confederate flag waving on the back—reminding me that racism was never too far away. In comparison, that day I stood with my fist raised in the middle of City Avenue in support of black lives.

Attending a predominately white institution, or PWI, it is easy to feel like many of your fellow classmates and professors don’t understand you.

“SJU can very much be a bubble for a lot of students, but as a black woman I don’t have the privilege to ignore police brutality,” said Sydney Villard, ’19.

I asked Rachel Cox, ’19, why it was important for her to take part in National Blackout Day as an ally, and she responded, “National Blackout Day was important to me because I wanted to stand in solidarity with the many innocent African Americans who were made victims simply because of their skin. I wanted to stand with those who still face injustice in a society that simply preaches ‘equality for all’ but doesn’t follow through with those ideals.”

While it is true that all lives matter, many times people lose sight of the subject at hand. The Black Lives Matter movement does not in any way relegate the notion that every life has value but that fact is that the lives of marginalized groups, namely the African American community, are being blatantly disregarded. I think Vanity Fair’s L-Mani Viney stated it best saying, “It’s hardly news to us that all lives matter. Our history of enduring tragedies allows us to understand what other people and groups endure. But that same understanding compels us to say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ because the empathy we have shown others has so rarely been reciprocated.”

As a university that prides itself on diversity and inclusion, we—as a group of students who attend St. Joe’s—hope to generate conversations on campus about race relations both inside and outside of our community. The racially motivated violence and acts are not just a “black people problem”: they are a problem for humanity and as a school community it is important that we start the conversations here and begin fostering a safe environment for all before we go out into the world. To choose to stay silent in times like these is to choose the side of the oppressor. Today its blacks, but who knows where the fight for equality will stand tomorrow. This demonstration of solidarity is just one step in continuing to make that initiative and showing that black lives do matter.


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