Hundreds of students showed up as MU4MikeBrown held a demonstration in the Student Center on Tuesday. The demonstration started at noon and lasted about an hour and a half.
The demonstration, protesting a grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, began with a group performing some of the call-and-response chants that have become a part of many of the movements surrounding the Brown shooting. Demonstrators chanted phrases such as “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and “Black lives matter.”
Protesters held up signs expressing frustration with the justice system and law enforcement, showing phrases such as “Indict the System” and “End Racism.”
The leaders of the protest finished the chanting after about 15 minutes and then asked the crowd to participate in a ‘die-in’ for four and a half minutes to represent the four and a half hours Michael Brown lay in the street after police officer Darren Wilson shot him.
Following the die-in, senior Naomi Daugherty began a series of speeches by presenting her version of Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege Checklist,” which Daugherty altered to apply directly to MU. She titled it, “Unpacking the Invisible Mizzou Backpack,” modeling it after McIntosh’s title “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”
Daugherty listed privileges such as the ability to attend Mizzou for its entire 175 years, which was denied to black students until the 1950s, being surrounded by people of one’s race in classes, being treated with respect by one’s professor without receiving surprise at one’s intelligence and having MU’s Homecoming Court, administrators and professors reflect one’s race.
Following Daugherty, a series of speakers discussed how African-Americans are forced to navigate a system that is opposed to treating them fairly. In between speakers, the organizers of the demonstration read the names of African-Americans killed by police within the last several years who were unarmed, such as Eric Garner and Oscar Grant.
Senior LeChae Mottley, Legion of Black Collegians President and an organizer of the event, shared afterward what the demonstration and the larger movement mean to her.
“We’re literally fighting for our lives,” Mottley said. “We’re literally fighting so that people understand that black lives matter, just like all the other lives in the U.S., and the world, matter, which our justice system and police enforcement haven’t proven to agree with. Really, what we’re doing is standing up for our beliefs. We’re standing up for people to value our lives and to realize that we are people that deserve to live, essentially.”
One of the speakers at the event was Student Life Assistant Director Donell Young, who oversees the Office of Student Conduct, Multicultural Center and the Gaines-Oldham Black Cultural Center.
He discussed in his speech how he fears for his sons, his emotions regarding the case and his anger toward the results, but also his excitement of the potential change that could occur.
“I’m very emotional. I want to cry, because I’m so happy,” Young said. “I’ve been here over 10 years, and we’ve had issues or incidents on campus where students do get motivated or organized to address and explain to administrators how they feel, and I think they’ve done it in a productive way. I’m so happy for the opportunity because the students are passionate. I’m sad that we don’t have more men being supportive, but I’m happy with the leadership and the direction we’re going. I think if we channel this energy, something very great and positive can come out of this.”
Young also said how this issue ties into his role on campus.
“As a black male, it’s something very close and dear to my heart,” Young said. “I’m supportive of our students. As students are affected, it doesn’t matter what side you’re on, as a person in student life my job is to support our students emotionally to help them be successful. My job is to help students, so that’s part of what I do.”
Young said he hopes to see concrete change as a result of the protests and discussions that have been occurring on MU’s campus.
“I would like to see a plan,” Young said. “People are upset and frustrated, and we need to identify issues. Once you identify the issues, then you can figure out what the solution to that issue is.”
Young said he wants students to be excited about the potential positives that could result from the movement.
“Be excited about this pivotal time in history,” Young said. “Use the energy to strategize a plan to effect change; don’t be a bystander, be a part of it. We need to understand that this issue is bigger than our individual selves and we need to lay down a foundation for the next generation. We may not see the fruits of our labor, but it’s important for people that follow behind us to have Mizzou be a better place than what it is now.”
Senior Curtis Taylor Jr. said he attended the demonstration because it represents much to him.
“I think it means a wake-up call,” Taylor said. “I’m a firm believer that subtle racism is just as bad as blatant racism, and so to allow students who have been seen as invisible for so long to finally become visible, whether that be to administrators, professional staff, to faculty, or to other students … if we can bring that reality to light and understand that this is the life that we live every day; if you can only see it for a glimpse, then we did our job.”
Taylor said he wants students to do one thing as they continue with the movement.
“Wage peace,” Taylor said.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs also spoke at the event and addressed the issue of being invisible.
“I have white privilege,” Scroggs said in her speech. “I know this. I recognize this. I am also a woman, and I’m old. And so, as a woman, I know what it’s like sometimes to be treated as if I was invisible.”
Scroggs said in her speech that MU is aware it needs to address racial problems on its campus and she is actively looking for solutions.
Junior Byron Norman, who is on LBC’s Political Committee, shared with the crowd how he was disappointed in a recent meeting with Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, which only 25 black men attended.
In his speech, he talked about the discrimination African-Americans face solely based on their skin color.
“Education and voting is not going to solve everything, because all of us here are educated and we’re in school and we’re trying to do something positive with our life,” Norman said. “But as soon as we go home to wherever we’re from, Chicago, St. Louis, Texas, Atlanta, we have a bulls-eye on our back. Nobody knows what kind of education we have, they just know what they see in the media, (which is) that we’re bad people. And we’re not bad people.”
Norman then asked more members of the community to get involved and make their voices heard.
“We have to change the system in which we’re in, and how do you do that?” Norman asked. “You can be a senator, you can be a governor, you can be a mayor; those are people who can affect change. You can be a police officer; those are people who can affect change. Even if you’re studying journalism, the media is the most powerful thing, so everyone has a part they can do.”
Norman ended his speech expressing his disapproval of current race relations in the U.S.
“Everyone should be safe walking down the street: Whether you’re at home, at the store, we shouldn’t be followed; we shouldn’t have to deal with this every single day,” Norman said. “This is 2014. The shackles have been off for hundreds of years, but we’re still in some type of slavery? Come on.”
Daugherty brought the event to a close with her own call to action.
“This is a collective,” Daugherty said. “We need all of you. It can’t continuously be five of us organizing. I am tired. We are tired. I need all of you to go home and email MU4MikeBrown and say, ‘I want to organize.’ You need to take this movement and put it in your heart because this is ours.”