Tag Archives: Black Students Alliance

Rally Against Racism forges connections

Anger, a desire for communication, and some tentative optimism were in store tonight, as students, faculty members, and administrators (Dean Forman and VP Gary Hauk mingled with the crowd) gathered for the Rally Against Racism. The event was organized as a collaboration by the Black Students Alliance, Emory NAACP, Change@Emory, the SRC, and the Office of Campus Life.

Before the sun went down, the Office of Religious Life encouraged students to write their hope for healing on a ribbon.

Ribbons for healing

College senior Hugh Hunter recalled the time he nearly urinated on from the balcony of a student residence, then told to go back to “his” campus. Since that appalling incident two years ago, he has been asked, “Do you go here?” 47 times (he counted), by students and faculty/staff, white and black. For black men at Emory, daily life is replete with microaggressions: “When a student shifts her backpack away when I sit at the desk beside her,” or when opening another Campus Safety Report email warning about black male muggers on the Midtown streets. “How do we make ourselves belong?” he asked. “By not settling.”

Cindy Park, a sophomore studying sociology, described a climate of persistent discrimination toward Asian and Asian American students. Why, she asked, is “You’re not like the other Asians” considered a compliment? Why are too many Asian women treated as docile and as sex objects? She recounted the dismaying story of going to Zaya’s (a campus restaurant) with a friend, who is Saudi, and hearing other students chant “LSM!” at them. (Longstreet-Means is a residence hall associated with “multicultural” and international students.) Then, in a pointed response to President Wagner’s “explanation” for the Emory Magazine letter, Cindy said, “We weren’t offended because we didn’t understand. We were offended because it was offensive.”

Taking pictures before the speeches

Lawrence Jackson, professor of English and African American studies, reminded us of where we stood: on the remnants of the old Peyton plantation; walking north on Clairmont, you would pass Butler’s Lane, where the slave quarters stood. With “the next generation” playing behind him, Jackson recited the names of his own “3/5 compromise ancestors,” who were sold before the Civil War. He exhorted all of Emory to know better, do better, and demand the best of our leaders.

Navyug Gill, graduate student in history and SRC member, broke down the racialization of Emory’s department cuts. Hopefully, we’ll have his speech up here soon.

Nicole Blumenkehl, a college senior and the chair of student concerns for College Council, discussed proposal to create a new GER (general education requirement) category, Global Citizenship, in place of the current History/Society/Culture module. The new requirement would expose students to global justice concerns, inequality, identity and difference: not be a catch-all solution, surely, but a significant gesture toward inscribing justice and equity into college teaching. She encouraged students to pay attention to the petition when it comes around.

Roopika Risam, current Dean’s Teaching Fellow in English and soon-to-be Assistant Professor at Salem State (er, can I say that?), delivered a passionate plea for genuinely ethically engaged teaching and scholarship: “I can’t stand in front of my students in our Global Blackness class three times a week and tell them that the historical legacies of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism are important, but not do anything when these very legacies are making themselves known on campus.” Read Roopika’s speech in its entirety on her blog.

Christian Conway addressed the abrupt and, to many students, devastating closure of historically black fraternity and sorority houses at Emory. Whereas majority-white frat houses stand despite charges of rape, hazing, and heavy drinking by individual students, allegations of lesser offenses within the black Greek system have been disproportionately punished, with less investigation.

Ian McCall described the disparity between black men’s grades and graduation rates and those of other groups of students, and called for comprehensive data collection and mentorship programs.

Jovanna Jones and Mariama Jallow, president and vice president of the Black Students Alliance and both College sophomores, addressed the closure of the BSA House and the lack of gathering spaces for black students (in which, they stressed, all students would be welcome to come and learn).

Stephanie Llanes, vice president of College Council and a member of Change@Emory, reaffirmed the need for structural change, and called to increase the visibility of Latina/o students and Spanish language study.

Reconstructed from my notes; if I have misrepresented anything or anyone, please email or leave a comment. Ditto if you’re willing to have your speech archived here.

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Surprise SCLC protest draws media attention

The Black Student Alliance, Black Star, Change@Emory, the SRC, and faculty supporters staged a silent protest at the lavish launch party for And the Struggle Continues: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Fight for Social Change at the Woodruff Library. We objected to the positioning of President Wagner and Emory College as patrons of the African-American civil rights and global anti-poverty movements.

Protesters greet Wagner at the SCLC launch. Photo: Jason Francisco.

Protesters greet Wagner at the SCLC launch. Photo: Jason Francisco.

Our banners bore statements like “Civil Rights is not a photo-op,” “I am not an afterthought,” and “Happy retirement, President Wagner.” We also distributed our fact sheet on race and the cuts and a statement from Change@Emory, “A Call to Action.”

Reporters from the New York Times, NPR, Fox 5 Atlanta, and the Emory Wheel were present.

Attendees–guests and honored speakers alike–were overwhelmingly supportive of our message. We received comments like, “50 years later, we’re still protesting?” and (from a SCLC speaker) “This is the First Amendment right we fought for.” As quoted in the NYT, Brenda Davenport, who has worked as the national volunteer and youth organizer for the SCLC, said, “I love it. Where else would you want protesters to show up but at something that is about the value of protesting?”
Dorothy Cotton, the director of the SCLC’s Citizen Education Project during the 1960s, and current national CEO Charles Steele both emphasized the role of education and engagement in the fight against Jim Crow, voting rights infringements, and other injustices.

For many in the room, the disintegration of the DES, the ILA, and the Journalism program was a bitter subtext. The exhibit was co-curated by a doctoral candidate in the ILA, an irony we didn’t want anyone to miss.

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Vital upcoming events

Emory students are setting the agenda once more, with characteristic passion and creativity. These two events next week promise to be far more inspiring than anything that comes out of the PR machine.

1. ILA colloquium: “Re-Visioning What is and What Can Be: Activism, Art, and the Creative Edge of Change”: Tuesday, Feb. 26th from 11:45-1:00 pm in Callaway S423, the ILA conference room.


2. Rally Against Racism, organized by members of the Black Students Alliance, Black Star magazine, and Change@Emory and the NAACP, next Wednesday (the 27th) at 6 on Asbury Circle.

The organizers write: “This is NOT a FORUM, but a CALL TO ACTION.This will be an opportunity for students to come together to unite against the systemic racism on Emory’s campus. Issues covered at the event include (but are not limited to): President Wagner’s “Compromise” Article and Failure to Understand Wrongs Even in Apology; The Dooley Show; The Racialization of Labor Issues and The Labor Movement; Lack of campus spaces for Black students and race issues; Disparities in Student Conduct Outcomes; Treatment of Minority Students on Frat Row; Administrative Processes; Removal of the BSA house; The suspension of Alpha Phi Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta. Explorations of solutions include: Auditing/Reforming Student Conduct Process; Emory University taking a clear and committed stance on racism (using the work on Sexual Assault and Sustainability as a model); the creation of a Black Student Union for formal space as well as resources on campus for black students; Campus Life hiring a team of experts to be proactive in working with racial issues as well as responding to racial problems; the development of a Bias Reporting System; instituting new GERs; transparency.”

Edited 2/21 to correct the organizers of the Rally Against Racism.

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