“Do I have everyone’s attention?” said Danielle Walker, graduate student and organizer of “Racism Lives Here.” “We will be chanting, ‘No justice, no peace! White silence is violence!’”
Over 50 students gathered at 1 p.m. Thursday outside Mort’s in the Student Center to spread awareness about racism in the demonstration called “Racism Lives Here.” Led by Walker, the event followed the first “Racism Lives Here” march Sept. 24 at Speakers Circle and Jesse Hall, when participants reacted to the slow response regarding a hate crime against Missouri Students Association President Payton Head.
Many held signs with phrases like “I am not here because of affirmative action,” “Are you anti-Racist or nah?” and “#BlackLivesMatter.” Some held signs in reference to other minorities such as “Queer and Trans POC Lives Matter,” and historical protests such as “#Bacons Rebellion 1676,” an allusion to the resentment against the governor of Virginia for unfair treatment of his citizens.
The march looped around the different floors of the Student Center and ended outside, with their chant echoing throughout the building.
About 15 minutes into the demonstration, the group gathered in a semi-circle behind the Student Center surrounding Walker.
“Let us be clear that until the administration takes a serious stance on racism on our campus, we will be marching until we are guaranteed justice,” Walker said. “They say they are for the students. Well, we are the students.”
The group continued their march back into the Student Center, where they assembled outside the front of the Mizzou Store. Many people stopped to watch, including Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs, who stood in front, and Mark Lucas, director of the Department of Student Life, who observed from the second-floor balcony.
“Attention Mizzou: It has come to our attention that our administrators don’t understand how serious we are about racism on our campus,” Walker said, as the other demonstrators yelled their support. “So until they take our claim serious, prepare for things like this happening almost every day. As long as people of color, students of color, are made to feel uncomfortable on this campus, we’re marching.”
Graduate student Reuben Faloughi moved forward to speak out against the way administrators and the university handle cases of reported racism as Scroggs, directly in front of the group, looked on.
“For those that know me, you know that this is not my normal personality,” Faloughi said. “I don’t like to scream. I don’t like to yell, but nobody wants to listen. Nobody listens in a forum. Nobody listens in an email, OK?”
The passionate speech was met with a large crowd of silent observers. Faloughi even stood up on a chair for most of his speech.
“Students get served violence on this campus: physical, emotional, spiritual and fucking mental,” he said. “I’ve been in small group because students don’t have a space on this campus. No, those centers downstairs aren’t for everybody. They don’t always feel welcome. I’ve been in conversations where black students have thought about committing suicide — suicide — because they don’t belong. They don’t feel like they belong.”
Walker said the attendance of Scroggs and Lucas is not a sign of improvement.
“All the claims they were making is not anything new,” Walker said. “They were very aware that students of color on campus are in a hostile environment. Their lack of inaction is what continues to propel us to host events like this. No, there’s more than just their presence.”
Faloughi said he is upset about what he said is the university ignoring the issue of racism. He and three other students wrote a letter to Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, Dr. Scroggs and other high level administrators detailing their disappointment over the lack of progress since last year.
“In the letter, we expressed outrage regarding the physical, emotional and mental violence on campus, their response to last year's call to action, and this year, showing no tangible progress on any goal to address the racial climate on campus,” Faloughi said. “The response to the email didn't go good. It was like we got slapped in the face. They told us to join ABGPS (Association of Black Graduate and Professional Students), MSA, GPC, and forwarded us to the transparency website. They did understand that students, particularly Black students, were talking about suicide --- the loss of life. And they forwarded me to a website that has no meaningful information and student organizations that they don't even listen to? That was like giving me the middle finger. That shit hurt. That was racism."
Many demonstrators, including Walker and Faloughi, proclaimed their frustration in the way other people perceive their protests.
“Listen, I don’t want to see that shit, ‘Why the black people angry?’” Faloughi said. “This is righteous anger.”
“Racism is everywhere, so we have to fight it wherever we find it,” a student said. “Most of the time, when I’m in class, I feel inclined to talk about race because most people in the class are uncomfortable, and it’s getting rid of the uncomfortableness in talking about race and really opening up the history that we have that people are trying to ignore, and that’s the first step in getting rid of racism and things like that.”
Participants and event organizers still think that the administration has not done enough to confront hate, discrimination and racism at MU.
“I think that the administration needs to talk directly with students,” a former MSA member who asked to remain anonymous said. “I think that the administration has failed in the past year or so in setting up forums but not actually igniting any movements on campus. I think a dialogue is important, but I think that if students still feel like their lives are in danger on campus, we’re failing as an institution, and I think that we need to actually start seeing where students think changes need to be made, and making these changes.”
At the end of the rally, the event organizers called everyone in for a group hug, as they did last week, and referenced Walker’s earlier statement that the fight is not over.
“I want to thank everyone that came out today,” Walker said. “It’s not over today. The struggle still continues. We will continue fighting. My sign says, ‘Is it ok white Mizzou for black students to walk on campus at night?’ Why, in 2015, do I still have to ask if it’s ok for my skin complexion to walk on this campus at night?”