Students, faculty and community members gathered for a non-violent procession, performance and eulogy earlier this month in honor of the life of Michael Brown, the Missouri teen killed this summer by Police Office Darren Wilson. After a three month investigation, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson.
“We are very interested in ensuring that we recognize people are affected by the grand jury decision and by an ongoing history of loss of black lives in the U.S. and to make sure that we stand up for that and show that we are listening,” says Associate Professor of Theatre Heather May in light of the Dec. 1 first campus gathering. May organized the event with Assistant Professor of Philosophy Rodmon King and Assistant Professor of Political Science Justin Rose.
Participants gathered on the steps of Scandling Campus Center then proceeded through campus and concluded at the Barn, where student theatre group Mosaic NY performed a social justice piece in protest of the events in Ferguson. The performance was followed by eulogies by Denisse Cotto ’15 and King for Michael Brown and the other black men and women who have not received justice during their lives, as well as an open forum for reflection and discussion.
“The march was very powerful,” says Dominque Miller ’15. “It not only informed students, but it provided a forum for voices of the HWS and Geneva community to be heard. These expressions, I believe, made those who attended very comfortable with sharing their own perspective, and even brought one young man to tears.”
The procession on Dec. 1 was the first in a series of forums and demonstrations addressing the ongoing events across the country. On Wednesday, Dec. 10, students, faculty and members of the Geneva community hosted a “die-in” in Scandling, during which participants honored and protested the loss of black lives by lying on the ground. The event also included a forum.
HWS community members also joined a Black Lives Matter event hosted by the local NAACP chapter and the faith community. The event took place on Dec. 14 at Mt. Calvary Church of God in Geneva. Students and faculty members gathered at St. John’s Chapel and proceeded downtown together.
Members of the HWS community have been dedicated to creating spaces to discuss racial issues as the semester concludes and into next year.
“Violence is often the recourse of, as Martin Luther King would say, the voice for the unheard,” Rose says. “So what we are trying to do is provide an outlet for people to be heard without having to have any recourse to violence.”