Best student movement: MU4MikeBrown

MU4MikeBrown was founded as a result of poor race relations on campus.

MU4MikeBrown is not an organization. The people involved aren't members; they’re activists. They don’t hold meetings; they hold protests. They don’t do what they do because it looks good on a resume; they're part of it because they want to change lives, MU and the world.

MU4MikeBrown is a movement. And it’s one of the most impressive student movements MU has seen.

Three students, graduates Kailynd Beck, Ashley Bland and senior Naomi Daugherty, founded the social justice group after Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014.

And though the movement took the name of the young black man killed in Ferguson since the beginning, it has been about a much broader problem.

“(The Michael Brown movement) is about a culture in America that shows up when it comes to police violence … and that shows up on a campus where black lives are seen in a way that makes those who have black skin feel like they don't matter,” said Carl Kenney, adjunct journalism professor and pastor at Bethel Baptist Church. "I do believe that the protest around Mike Brown, yes, is about the death of this young man, but is also about the psychological death, the financial death. It's about people … who feel marginalized because of a culture that is similar to that of Ferguson."

It’s that culture MU4MikeBrown has spent the year trying to change.

At the group's first event, a silent vigil for Brown in August 2014, Bland told The Maneater: “I want this to be a catalyst for other things. It’s just a start."

MU4MikeBrown exposed the divide on campus, Kenney said.

“They have brought to the attention of the administration and the student body and the faculty the great divide that exists on campus related to racial matters," he said. "I think there was a culture pre-Michael Brown that, in many ways, modeled the culture in Ferguson. And the students in the protests helped bring to the forefront attention to a campus that needs to change the way it functions."

Starting in December, administrators set up a series of discussions about improving race relations on campus, in part because of the efforts of MU4MikeBrown.

"I would say that they're absolutely critical because the only way we can begin a conversation about change is for people to scream,” Kenney said. "It wouldn't have happened without the students of the Mike Brown movement shifting the tide on campus. I think there's more that needs to be discussed. I think there's more to be said, and hopefully the faculty, the administration and the rest of the student body will rally around these questions that they are raising. There is so much that needs to be done on a campus like Mizzou that is often silenced by apathy."

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs said race relations at MU are “a work in progress.”

“I think (MU4MikeBrown has) done a good job of raising issues about race and about inclusion,” Scroggs said. "They’ve been a good group to raise an important issue."

MU4MikeBrown has held a die-in at the Student Center, marched through Greektown in protest of racism within the Greek community and organized various other race-related demonstrations on and around campus.

“You have people on this campus who had never seen black people until they got to this campus,” Daugherty said. “I don’t know, to this day, a black student who has been to Greektown and not been called an n-word, a racial slur or been harassed (because of their race). I know a lot of people. That’s a problem. Why are we trying to Band-Aid this issue?”

MU4MikeBrown protests are organized largely through social media and open to the public. The name MU4MikeBrown comes from the hashtag used to mobilize people to attend their initial vigil.

"I have hope in these students,” Kenney said. "The students who lead the Mike Brown movement are highly passionate and incredibly organized and incredibly consistent around what they believe to be critical issues. I believe they are the generation to bring forth change. They have been able to make a community understand how each of us is impacted by these issues. I'm hopeful that is what is going to usher in the change: their ability to stand as Millennials and communicate how (racial issues) impact them specifically."

Elizabeth Loutfi contributed to this report.

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