With the recent charge of 2nd degree manslaughter to the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile, members of the African American Student Association rallied together Wednesday night to bring light to police brutality against the African American community in the Atwood Mall.
Students of all ethnicities and walks of life joined together in unity as demonstrators told stories of discrimination, discussed ways to bring peaceful justice into the community, and addressed the threat against African American, Muslim, and LGBT citizens in the face of a divided nation. They also held tombstone-shaped signs with the faces of black men that had been shot by police officers all across the country. Some of the familiar identities included Jamar Clark, Walter Scott, and Eric Garner.
Sharai Sims, the Program Outreach Coordinator for the Women’s Center, said that the event wasn’t planned to be hosted on the day the officer was charged with manslaughter, but that the planets and stars aligned, making it more sentimental than originally planned.
The main topic of discussion was reproductive justice issues centering around the BLM movement.
“With Black Lives Matter, it’s not about just the man that came out of a woman’s vagina,” Sims said. “They were born to a family, they were children, they were part of a family system, and all of these things are put into perspective in a reproductive justice movement because your number one concern is with protecting your child.”
Sims says she faced criticism for hosting the event because it initially didn’t serve a purpose, but she believes it’s her duty as a citizen to demonstrate advocacy in order to send a message.
“There is a difference between activism and advocacy: advocacy is something you do everyday to make a difference, activism is something you do after a major crisis has happened, like when you come together after there’s been a shooting at the mall and everyone just acts like they’re united for a few moments, but to unite for no just cause? That’s not really spreading awareness,” Sims said.
She also adds that this movement is important to her because many black women will become mothers and if those women choose a mate that aligns with their same culture, then they will birth a black child.
“To live in a world that is not created for you and also could kill you or erase you, that’s a tough concept to grasp,” she said. “So many times black people get erased from humanity because we’re seen to be malicious, vicious, and negative, and it’s so wrong.”
The advocates began to march across campus as soon as guests were done speaking.
Photos by Sam Hanson