Whenever Annakay Wright’17 tells you they have something up their sleeve, but cannot disclose any information, you should probably prepare yourself for a statement to be made. On Friday, October 7th around 11:10 am the students participating in the student activism march met in the OIE, located in Chase Hall. The OIE is used as a “safe” space on campus for students who identify with minority identities.
The day felt hotter than normal because I kept thinking if any student or faculty member of color at Bates was shot would any parents, current student, alumni, or faculty care and protest the injustice? As we walked out Chase Hall, as a group of maybe 15, I was empowered. The white allies were passing out flyers while the black students and faculty members were marching. The flyers were a very important part of this march because last year when Annakay staged a “Die In” in Commons with some fellow students of color and white allies, some students who were not participating in on the “Die-In” took their opinions to YikYak. Students made racist slurs and questioned the purpose of the “Die-In” while doubting the injustices people of color encounter on a daily basis. Annakay had a mission to make this student activism piece so prepared that not even God herself could have questions about what is going on.
When we got to the front of Commons, I could see people in and outside of Commons looking at us, but did our peaceful march stop their conversations? Only a few. I guess I should be happy with a few conversations, but I am not. Everyday someone is dying due to police brutality and guess who it is? Take a second…I will let you think because obviously you are not up to date with the mistreatment of black people in America. This is our home just like everyone else. Fun Fact: Benjamin Bates was one of the main advocates for the creation of Bates College, but where did he receive his money to donate to the school? From black slaves who picked cotton for his textile mills. We have been an integral part in the formation of this country and school through blood, sweat, and tears, yet we cannot and do not get any recognition, but rather bits and pieces of our culture snatched from us.
As we begin to walk down alumni and past P’gill, I saw white students stop. Some record, smile, stare, but the worst of them all are the ones who zipped past on their bike, skateboard, or scooter, almost to say, “Sorry, but I do not care.” When we got to College Street to make a “U” turn and walk back down alumni, a white ally passed a flyer to a Bates worker who then responded, “White Lives Matter also.” When I saw who said I was hurt mostly because I say hello to this man every time I see him. Black Lives Matter does not mean White Lives do not matter, it just means that Black Lives should matter more right now because police officers follow procedure in terms of arresting a white person. But because some police officers are afraid of black bodies, the protocols go straight out the window and the bullet goes straight into the body of a black person making him another statistic and leaving a family distraught with no light at the end of the tunnel for race situations in America. To clear up another issue, black lives do not just mean African-Americans, but every shade of brown and black out there.
As we walked down Alumni, the walkway began to flood with students happy to finish with class, but confused because a group of students and faculty are wearing all black for the most part humming, “Lift our voice” and carrying the posters of the parents of the black people who have been murdered from police brutality. More students begin to stop and stare as we march down, which meant more students began to zip past us like we were invisible.
When we finally got back to Commons and walked inside to the Fireplace lounge, it was honestly very loud because of parents, students, and faculty members. Did I feel like they could and should have quiet down to listen to what conversations were being had? Yes, and people did. Our group went from 12-15 to about 30 people in a matter of minutes and that was a great feeling. White students who took time out of their day to listen were definitely informed listening to the students and faculty of color share their experience. Annakay would agree that the discussion and march were successful, but hopefully people realized their parents have the opportunity to come to Parents Weekend and show their love while some parents of color will never get to go to a Parents Weekend and if those parents did have children, is America going to allow them to live full lives? I guess it’s in the bullet of a police officer’s gun.