Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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HBCU STUDENTS ON FRONT LINES

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CHANGING OUR COMMUNITIES

Across the country, people have been protesting non-stop for equal treatment of black people. Among those protestors are Historically Black College/University (HBCU) students who want to participate in bringing about the necessary changes in our communities. 

Students have gone out and protested in their cities in response to the recent killings of black people. Many HBCU students have even organized their own protests, like the protests in Tallahassee, FL. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University students decided to protest when Tony McDade, a resident of Tallahassee, was shot and killed by police on May 27. The students jumped into action and organized a peaceful protest for all the black lives that have been taken. 

Protestors at the Tallahassee Police Department. Photo courtesy of WTXL

Carly Griffin, a student at FAMU, attended the protest and described the divide between black people in the city and the police officers. 

The police would read our signs and then proceed to laugh or scoff at them like the message means nothing to them,” Griffin said. “It was even worse seeing black officers act in that manner because we are essentially fighting for their lives too.”

Even though these protests start out peaceful, they can turn violent very quickly. Griffin experienced it first-hand in Jacksonville. She was protesting with friends when police began throwing tear gas at protestors. While she was putting distance between herself and the police, they grabbed her and her friend and arrested them. The cop who arrested them only said, “You know what you were doing; you’re going to jail.”

“We were forced into a pitch-black van and then held in a holding cell for six plus hours with handcuffs on until we eventually had to be booked and spend the night in jail,” Griffin said. 

In Waller County, TX, Prairie View A&M University students attended a Black Lives Matter protest as well. The NAACP chapter at the university organized the protest, and both students and residents came out to show solidarity with the rest of the nation. 

A protestor’s sign at the Waller County protest. Photo courtesy of the Houston Chronicle

Taylor Shumaker, a PVAMU student, recalls how a GoFundMe page was set up to get supplies for protestors and was shocked that the people in Waller County were so supportive.

They handed us things like waters, Gatorades, and snacks as we passed their houses,” Shumaker said. “One lady even told us as we were walking past that she was very proud of us.”

Despite the possible repercussions they face, students have continued to go out and be a part of the movement. Students believe that their schools have been instrumental in this time because of the education they have received. Especially at an HBCU, there are history classes dedicated to just African American history where you can learn all of the trials and tribulations black people have gone through in this country. Understanding this history is pertinent in the understanding of why people are protesting now. 

“I’ve learned so much in my history and humanities class about our history,” Shumaker said. “I feel like they go more in-depth about black history.”

A flyer for a protest in Tallahassee. Photo courtesy of Carly Griffin.

Currently, protests are ongoing in many cities. The protests were sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. Derek Chauvin is the police officer who killed him by kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. After the video went viral, protests broke out in Minneapolis. The deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmuad Arbery, and countless others added fuel to the fire and caused every state to join in the call for justice. 

In some cities, laws have been passed and citizens are starting to feel how the efforts have begun to pay off. Breonna’s Law was passed in Louisville, Kentucky that bans no knock warrants. President Donald Trump has now signed an executive order for police reform and started the conversation about what that reform will look like. Protests continue and citizens everywhere are calling for more change. 

Some have wondered what the goal is and when the protesting will cease. Most people protest because they want peace and equality in this country. Jasmine Hudson, a FAMU student who helped organize the protests in Tallahassee, says she thinks real change is coming soon. 

“It will push our generation to undo and dismantle and abolish policies that have not been working before,” Hudson said. “This is definitely the beginning and I am honored to be a part of what I would consider as the Civil Rights Era Part 2.”