FSU holds forum to discuss last week’s Black Lives Matter teach in

Roughly 300 students participated in the Black Lives Matter forum which occurred on Wednesday, March 2, according to Virgina Rutter, sociology professor and one of the organizers of the teach in. (Photo by Amanda Martin)

The Black Lives Matter teach in, which occurred last week, was discussed at an open forum held on Wednesday, March 2.

The teach in was created by sociology professors Xavier Gaudalupe-Diaz, Virginia Rutter, Lina Rincón and Patricia Sanchez-Connally to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement. Professors integrated Black Lives Matter into their curriculum, teaching everything from systematic mass incarceration of black Americans to agricultural advancements made by black Americans.

Over 2,000 students, 40 professors and 200 courses in 33 different fields of study were involved in the teach in, according to Rutter.

Rutter estimated 300 students and faculty attended the forum.

Senior Avarie Cook said the Black Lives Matter movement was “started by three black women, some of them part of the queer community, and it was started online with a hashtag.”

Guadalupe-Diaz said the hashtag BlackLivesMatter came from a social media post by Alicia Garza in 2012 following the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his assailant.

He explained the movement was created as “an ideological, political invention in a world where black lives are systemically and intentionally targeted for demise. It’s an affirmation of black folks’ contribution, their humanity and their resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

“Black Lives Matter is a call to action,” Guadalupe-Diaz said. “What we’re here for today is movement and what you all participated in makes a radical statement in a world that historically continues to denigrate, oppress and marginalize black and brown communities across the country. What today is about is joining in and saying, ‘yes, black lives do matter,’ even in a system that tells us otherwise.”

According to the Black Lives Matter website, the movement “affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to rebuild the Black liberation movement.”

The forum began with a screening of  “First Minute Programs: Co-curricular Social Justice Dialogues,” a student film created by Cook.  In the video, students, staff and faculty spoke about incidents of racism on campus and how that sparked them to take action. Cook’s video is posted on YouTube.

According to Rutter, the film “helps explain why I and my colleagues – Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz, Lina Rincón and Patricia Sanchez-Connally, got this whole thing started.”

Sanchez-Connally helped facilitate the conversation at the forum. Blank index cards were handed out to everyone, and Sanchez-Connally asked participants to write down their thoughts and feelings toward the teach in and the movement.

Afterward, Sanchez-Connally broke participants up into groups and, with the help of the student facilitators, students discussed what was written on their cards, their experiences with racism and with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sophomore Naomi Salley said, “I’m not going to say I was oblivious to my skin color. Of course I always knew I was black, but I was born in a different country. I was born and raised in Liberia and over there it’s so diverse. You have people from every skin color and every race. It was never an issue growing up there. I never heard of someone being made fun of their skin color until I came here when I was 7.”

She recalled a time on the playground when someone referred to her as a “nappy-headed black girl.” She said she didn’t feel persecuted against at the time, but now understands the significance of that moment.

Sophomore Khalima Botus-Foster said, “I’m scared to raise a black son.”

Student facilitator Kenetra Hinkins agreed and said, “You don’t want your baby to be a hashtag.”

After the small group discussions, Sanchez-Connally opened the floor to students to share what their smaller groups spoke about.

Senior Tremain Bell spoke about his experience as a black male living in the inner city. He explained the injustice of his mother having to worry about him while he was simply playing basketball down the street.

“When people who are an authority, who are supposed to be the people looking after us, are the ones beating on us, that’s tough.”

He added the Black Lives Matter movement “sheds light on things that are not right with our society. It shows that people of our generation are stepping up.”

He said past generations accuse millennials of not taking action against the social injustice they complain about. “Nowadays, everything is virtual. When you put something as simple as Black Lives Matter, it’s like an online protest. I love to see my people stepping up.”

Bell thanked Sean Huddleston and Virginia Rutter for “making this happen” and allowing students to “discuss things that really matter.

“Finally, someone is making sure we celebrate black history month the right way.”

Sophomore Lindsay Boyle spoke about her Intro to Sociology class which took part in the Black Lives Matter teach in. According to Boyle, the teach in was “a really important movement.”

She said in class, she learned about the confederate flag, the evolution of its meaning and the reasons some believe they have a right to fly it. She added she doesn’t believe in that right. This statement elicited a round of applause from the crowd.

Boyle added she also learned about Brie Newsome, who was arrested for taking down the confederate flag in front of the South Carolina State House in July 2015. “I thought that was awesome. She stood up for something. She did something about it. She didn’t care if she got arrested.”

She added the teach in “shouldn’t be a week in February. It should be all the time. It’s happening right now. We can all see that. It’s happening to all of us. We’re seeing our friends being discriminated against. It’s not fair. We need to do something about it.”

Senior Kamren Smith said in one of his classes, a student voiced his support for All Lives Matter. However, after the teach in and class discussion, “their context shifted.”

He said, “That’s really important. … Race issues are still prevalent in America. We still have a racism problem. It’s systemic. A lot of people aren’t exposed to that because they are insulated in their communities.”

When Sanchez-Connally asked students to share what they had written down on their cards in association with the movement, sophomore Emmett Prescott said they wrote down “powerful, insightful, motivating and necessary.”

Prescott elaborated on the word “necessary” and said everyone in the group has brothers. “My brother is a little white boy, he’s 14. He can go out and play, and I don’t have to worry about anything happening to him. … Karen’s brother is of a darker skin tone. If he goes out, she has to worry about that.”

He added, “I have friends who every time their little brother or their older brother or anyone in their family goes out, they don’t necessarily know if they’re going to come back. That’s because of the people who we are supposed to regard as protection.”

Sophomore Jace Williams voiced concerns about the targeting of transgender minorities. “I really want to touch upon the black trans lives that are being lost. Already this year, black trans women are being murdered. It’s not just black lives – its black disabled lives, black trans lives, black LGBT lives.”

Sanchez-Connolly asked students how the FSU community can remain engaged in the movement.

Sophomore Jackson Stevens shared what he called “the white perspective.”

Stevens explained, “Understanding our privilege will make our life a little clearer. We live in this snow globe and you shake it and you can’t see the outside world. Other people live in that outside world and have to deal with actual struggles. … Leaving that snow globe is the way to continue this process. Small steps of breaking the glass of that snow globe is the way to keep this at Framingham State.”

According to junior Elizabeth Lewis, engagement begins when teachers take a break from the textbook and teach about social injustices such as police brutality. “I didn’t fully understand police brutality until Trayvon Martin – until these things started happening, until people started posting videos of these things. Black transgender women are being killed every day. Teachers should be coming out of the textbook to teach us.”

Sophomore Steven Lamisere said while formal education is important, “sometimes, you have to learn things on your own. I feel like when you step out of your comfort zone that’s when you learn more about yourself. … We should all step out of our comfort zones. …  That’s when you bloom like a flower.”

Sociology professor Lina Rincón said the teach in has been adopted by surrounding state colleges, including Bridgewater State, Salem State, Westfield State and Mass College of Art.

She added this “speaks volumes” about the success of the teach in and how it has to “continue in our teaching and learning.”

Rincón shared suggestions of what FSU can do to further the movement. “Racism is often denied, minimized and justified. Someone pointed out, be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Talk to your friends and family. … You can also join local BLM chapters.”

According to Rincón, the new Director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence Chon’tel Washington will be creating a new Speakers Bureau to bring more discussion to dorms, classroom and clubs.

Student facilitator Cameron Zamagni said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. If you don’t say something when someone makes a joke or comment, you are setting the status quo. If you laugh, you’re saying that’s alright.”