#BlackLivesMatter creates conversation in Worcester

 

By Kathryn Severance

The #BlackLivesMatter (http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/) movement started in 2012 in response to the Trayvon Martin case.

The movement made more news in Worcester in November on college campuses in the area. This occurred when the WPI Society of Black Engineers came together to give support to the students at the University of Missouri. There, students protested on behalf of the issues of racial injustice led by the University’s ‘Concerned student 1950.’  Students at Missouri held protests to get system president, Tim Wolfe to resign from his position after his handling of racial issues on the campus.

According to the Telegram and Gazette’s article on the issue, a student’s snap showed a photo of a white male student, shirtless, sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen. The snap featured a statement undermining the protest and dubbing the black students involved with the #BlackLivesMatter protest “blackies,” as well as featuring the racist hashtag #whitepower”.

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“I saw the snap right when it was posted and I was disgusted. I immediately forwarded it to the different groups that I am involved in on campus. I was angry but not surprised. It is quite absurd how a few hours earlier we were standing in solidarity with students who face injustices on campuses throughout the nation and then now we were faced with these same injustices,” shared WPI sophomore, Nde N, a member of the Society of Black Engineers present at the concerned student 1950 protest.

“I was just in my room, browsing Snapchat, when I saw it […] It made me and a lot of other people very angry,” shared first-year WPI student, Harry S., who saw the snap first-hand on the Snapchat app. 

WPI senior, Brian Harvey, did not see the Snapchat on social media, as he does not frequent Snapchat, but he learned about it when the WPI’s president, Laurie A. Leshin, sent out an email about having an open conversation on racial issues with students at the college.

According to Harvey, the assembly to discuss racial issues had a turn-out of more than 200 WPI community members.

He had strong feelings on the issue.

“I think it’s disgraceful that people still hold those views in this day and age. The person who initially sent out the Snapchat probably has some personal demons to work through. It is very difficult for me to comprehend what would cause a person to hold those thoughts, let lone feel the need to broadcast them out to the WPI community,” commented Harvey.

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The snap had repercussions that reached beyond WPI’s campus. Students at Clark University chose to protest racial injustice on behalf of the #BlackLivesMatter movement at Clark’s midnight basketball game against Worcester State University on November 14. Students at Clark stood up, clad in black attire and formed a line across the gym floor. Some took up microphones and some others held signs, but collectively, they came together in the name of the racial discrimination. The protest was peaceful in nature and lasted a total of five minutes, postponing the start of the midnight basketball game.

In the wake of the Clark protest, some professors chose to hold their classes outside the following day. They focused their class around educating students on racial issues, rather than class material for the day, deciding that the racial issues that Worcester had experienced in November were of higher importance.

“I remember that I got to campus that day and there were students and professors sitting outside. I remember thinking that was odd. And then I found out that some of the professors had taken their classes outside for the day in support of the cause,” said Clark graduate student, Ashley Barry.

Clark then went on to hold discussions about race with students. The college also has a Race and Ethnic Relations concentration .

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Another private college in the Worcester consortium also participated in the discussion. A Twitter poll of the Assumption College community revealed that community members largely feel that WPI’s president adequately addressed the racial social media post that arose in November.

According to the #BlackLivesMatter movement’s website, it was designed with the intent to create “a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements”.

Those who support the movement hope to bring conversation and activism to the issue of racial inequality. People from different career fields have made contributions to the movement’s efforts to establish racial equality in the way of art, technology, and culture. These contributions have come together to expand the movement and its outreach in America.

 

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