Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m., the Mosaic House hosted an event centered on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Students and faculty held a Respecting All Perspectives (RAP) discussion in the house. Later, students gathered in front of the BSC and wrote the names of some of the people of color who have been killed due to police brutality this year. The event was held to raise awareness and knowledge of the movement and show solidarity with students and community members of color.
Elizabethtown College’s Mosaic House, located across the street from Campus Security, is a host and safe space for diversity groups on campus. Tuesday, Nov. 8, the Mosaic House hosted an “Election Results Watch Party” and has opened its doors to public events and community members since its opening in early October.
Thursday night’s discussion began with Interim Coordinator for Multicultural Programs and Residential Communities Stephanie Collins reading facts about the history and goals of the BLM movement.
“I work closely with NOiR, and they have concerns about being students of color on a small, primarily white campus,” Collins said. NOiR and Collin’s goals for the night were to educate and open the floor for healthy debate.
The BLM movement began as a social media hashtag after the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012. #BlackLivesMatter is attributed and currently managed over social media by activists Alicia Garzia, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors. Garzia wrote the history of the movement on their official website.
“It was a response to the anti-black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements,” Garzia stated.
BLM grew into an organized movement after the murder of Mike Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. As Ferguson citizens protested and faced brutal treatment at the hands of a militarized police force, #BlackLivesMatter existed as a rallying cry and a symbol of support.
BLM is now a national organization with chapters in large cities. These chapters have a presence in political and social events. The ultimate goal of the organization is to reveal the systematic racism in the United States, validate the experiences of black people and seek justice for hate crimes.
Many students shared their firsthand experiences with racism and BLM groups. In this environment, students were free to voice their concerns with BLM’s protesting tactics and with the racial climate on campus.
First-year communications major and student employee at the Mosaic House Pleasant Sprinkle-Williams shared what she believed black students would like to see on campus.
“I’d like to see more acceptance from students, and more training on what microaggressions are and how to deal with them,” Sprinkle-Williams said.
A microaggression is a comment or action which dismisses or shows prejudiced thinking against a group. Microaggressions are a phenomenon well-known to people of color. They often face microaggressions when they are told they “don’t sound black” when they speak or “don’t act black” based on the definition of “blackness” created by that person.
Such struggles were discussed by students. Many had experienced some form of racism, direct or otherwise. Many worried about the future and safety in this violent post-election period. Yet there was still a feeling of hope within the group. Students reacted positively to sharing and contributing to discussion.
“I think student activism is great,” Sprinkle-Williams said. “It creates connections within student groups. When we all feel like we’re working toward the same goal, it creates better relationships between us.”
Amidst healthy concern and informed discussion, there were moments of excitement and fun. Students became comfortable within the group as they realized that they were in a safe space. People joked, shared snacks, made hot chocolate and shared honestly with each other.
Talk died down and Collins presented a list to the group. The list was a tentative report of people killed by police in 2016. Many were people of color who had been unarmed, in mental crises or falsely accused of a crime at the time of their death. Collins led students to the BSC to write some of these names in chalk in front of the main steps.
The sentiment was meant to show solidarity with the BLM movement. The hashtags #saytheirnames and #alllivesshouldmatter accompanied the collection of names. Students hope to continue having these discussions and being active in their support of the black community.