Shavonne Marshall-Wells

When Do Black Lives Matter?

Shavonne Marshall-Wells
When Do Black Lives Matter?

 

With sweaty palms I taped the name Philando Castile onto my shirt. I walked down to the plaza with the other members of BSU, we were all nervous as hell. The eyes of hundreds of students latched onto us and for the next few moments we became the names on our bodies. I was Philando Castile; the man shot dead by a police officer while in a car with his girlfriend and daughter.

For the first 15 minutes of the rally we waited for others to join us as we stood for unity, very few did. In a school of thousands only about 20 of us were involved, but it didn’t matter. Those who stood and watched were going to hear us loud and clear. “No justice! No peace!” My body shook and my eyes watered as I belted each word out. “No justice! No peace!” My voice was bigger than it had ever been. I needed my peers to feel the shots fired through their ears. “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” We raised our hands begging to be seen. Begging for empathy. Begging for the luxury of living without targets on our chests. “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!” A cry for our brothers and sisters, and a warning all in the same breath.  

On September 1, 2016 I joined Baruch’s Black Student Union in holding a unity rally to raise awareness of the recent acts of police brutality and unify the student body. Although we had good intentions, our message wasn’t received well. We made it our business to address the lack of unity between the different cultures on campus, but it still seemed that the students watching did not feel that they were included.

The plaza was filled with students staring at us as if we were outsiders and some even took pictures and videos to post on social media and proceeded to leave right after. The turnout at the rally and the comments made by Baruch students spoke volumes about the dynamics of the community at Baruch. An anonymous person on a Baruch’s secrets page said, “#469: The black lives matter rally outside the library is so obnoxious. Why of all places would you choose to plant yourselves outside a fucking LIBRARY instead of in front of the vertical building where there are more bypassers and students going in and out. You would get more exposure and would not be annoying people who are actually trying to study you dumb *****”. Another post stated, “#468: Today while I was working in the library I heard people chanting "no justice no peace" and "hands up don't shoot". I honestly was moved and got goose bumps. However, when I looked up a lot of people in the library were rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, smirking. No one is asking you to participate but the least you could do is show some fucking respect. Those are human lives being chanted about.” Again, I’d like to remind you that the purpose of the rally was to unify the student body and educate the students of the recent acts of police brutality. You would think that at one of the nation’s most “diverse” colleges there would be less disrespect and more support between the different races on campus. But I guess diversity doesn't mean much when held up against prejudices and systematic racism.

Written By: Twanna F.