March held for racial inequality

Sam TapperManaging Editor

Abby EpsteinNews Editor

Seth MarceauContributor

Hundreds of protestors chanted “no justice, no peace” and “white silence is compliance” as they marched towards the Residence Life Quad as part of the university’s Black Lives Matter March.

“I’m tired that this movement is a thing, because Black lives should already matter,” said psychology major Camyrn Arpino-Brown, a senior. “When will our voices be heard? The answer is now. The answer has been now for the past 400 years. The alarm has been ringing since 1619; y’all have just been hitting snooze.”

Students, faculty and staff gathered in support of the fight against racial injustice and police brutality across the country. First congregating in front of Buley Library, the event began with six students replicating a “runway walk,” as they carried sketches of victims of police brutality.

Immediately following, the crowd began to march across campus, led by Arpino-Brown. In addition to Arpino-Brown, the event had 15 scheduled speakers, including President Joe Bertolino and Vice President of Diversity and Equity Programs Diane Ariza, as well as students and other advocates not affiliated with the university.

When it was Bertolino’s turn to speak, he delivered words of praise and encouragement, but also explained the personal impact this has on him. Bertolino and his partner have an adopted son, Joel, who is Black. Whenever Bertolino sees instances of racial injustice, he said he thinks to himself: “that could be Joel.”

“When I look at what happens to Black men, Black and brown people in general, it is never lost on me that Joel could be experiencing that at any time, and that Joel can be a victim at any time, and there’s very little I can do about that,” Bertolino said. “It scares the heck out of me.”

Each of the speakers throughout the night brought something different to the rally. Some performed songs, some recited poetry or literature; and others spoke from the heart. Regardless of the delivery, the message was the conversation of social justice needs to be continued.

“I will continue to educate myself; I will continue to fight acts of racism; I will continue to hold myself accountable,” said Student Government Association President Sarah Gossman, a junior. “I’m here to support you.”

Following many of the speakers, Arpino-Brown opened the microphones up to anybody who wanted to say something, whether it be their personal experiences or their thoughts on the movement. In total, 16 different members of the crowd volunteered to address those in attendance.

“The George Floyd murder basically inspired me to speak out and do my own thing, like creating protests and trying to create change in my own community,” said biology major Shoshanah Mahon, a freshman. “I feel like that should be shared so people know what I have done and what I have done to try and prevent what I go through in my everyday life.”

One advocate who spoke was David Rufus, 23, from Brooklyn, N.Y., who is a rapper more commonly known by his stage name, “Rufii.” Rufus, who heard of the event from another rapper that performed, Quazel Trower, known professionally as “Quality,” read an original poem about Oscar Grant III, an African-American man who was shot and killed by police on Jan. 1, 2009.

“I wrote [the poem] on Jan. 1, 2019, this was 10 years after he actually died,” Rufus said. “I wrote the poem on that same exact day, and he died at 22-years old and I was 22-years old also. So, just knowing that in that moment, I think it was destiny or something that was close to me. The fact that we were the same age and both black men, it was a ‘that could have been me’ type of thing.”

After everyone had a chance to speak at the open mic portion, a candlelight vigil was held to honor all the victims of police brutality and racial injustice, such as Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Trayvon Martin, among many others. Placed in front of the speakers were large sketches of each of said victims.

“I feel like all the voices that we have, all the voices that we can get, all the voices that we can convince – we shouldn’t even have to convince, but I feel like eventually all of that will come along,” said Owls football defensive back Kwadir Delgado-McIntyre, a graduate student. “I feel like the louder we get, the more fair social justice will be.”

Ariza was the final speaker of the night, emphasizing the fact that this conversation needs to be had. She said the issue of social justice must be happening on a daily basis; in the hallway, in the classroom, everywhere.

“Students have to speak out; they have to be comfortable enough to feel empowered to do that,” said Ariza. “If they don’t know how to do that, they have to get allies to help them with that.”

Before the rally was adjourned, Arpino-Brown instructed everyone to get together on the quad for a picture. Rather than smiling, all turned their backs and raised their fists into the air to signify empowerment.

“I’m proud to be president of this institution,” Bertolino said. “This evening’s rally really highlights our care for one another, our commitment to social justice and the pride we take as a community in supporting one another.”

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