Campus walk for Lauren Smith-Fields “What do we want, JUSTICE.”
Hailey Roy – Contributor
On Wednesday Feb. 23, the Black Students Union held a justice walk for Lauren Smith-Fields. Smith-Fields has gotten national attention for the way her death was handled. The Bridgeport woman, 23, was found dead after a man she went on a Bumble date with called the police saying he found her unresponsive. Bumble is an online dating app created in 2014.
The police failed to notify the Smith-Fields family of their daughter’s passing, and also didn’t make the white, male, Bumble date a suspect. Bridgeport Mayor, Joseph Ganim said in a statement that he is “extremely disappointed with the leadership of the Bridgeport Police Department and find actions taken up to this point unacceptable.” The two original detectives on the case have been suspended.
President of Black Student Union, BSU, Mya Yorke, a senior, wanted to put this walk together for Smith-Fields because of how the justice of the event went out.
“Being a black woman in America, a lot of this goes unnoticed so when it happens in your own backyard [Bridgeport, Conn.] you want to do something about it,” Yorke said. “our lives [as black women] are seen as inconsequential. They do not take us seriously until we actually tell them what we need to do. Until we apply pressure they really don’t care.”
The walk started in the Residential Life Quad then continued down into the front of Buley Library. The participants in the walk carried big signs reading “Where Is The Justice?” and “Am I Next?” The chanting of terms like “Black Lives Matter” and “What do we want? Justice!” was heard throughout the campus.
When asked how we can take steps to prevent these injustices from occurring within black people Yorke responded “ Just by being together. I think we have more of a voice when we’re together … the more that we project it, the more it can be heard.”
Psychology major and BSU member Stephen Ibekwe, a junior, thought it was their club’s time to show representation on black injustice surrounding the case of Smith-Fields death. Matthew Lafountain, Smith-Fields bumble date, was the last person to see her before her death yet he wasn’t interviewed after the finding of her body.
“White males are looked at as a statue of power, They’re in a privileged position. They tend not to understand the struggles (as a black man) because they don’t know,” Ibekwe explained.
Dawn Stanton, Director of University Access Programs, was a speaker at the justice walk before participants marched down to the library. The event started off with knowledge, statistics, opinions, and feelings surrounding the injustice of black people and more specifically Lauren Smith-Fields.
“Unfortunately black women are the most disrespected and unprotected [demographic] in this country. As a woman and as a mom I was traumatized when I first heard of Lauren Smith-Fields case and the lack of concern, professionalism, and empathy that was shown to her family and friends by the Bridgeport police,” Dawn Stanton said. “This devastating case reminded her that for many in this society, black lives don’t matter, black girls’ lives don’t matter, and black women’s lives don’t matter. “The police are supposed to protect and serve not to neglect,” Stanton stated.
Multiple sources attending the event have agreed that using their voices as a community is a way to hopefully prevent the same injustices from happening again. “We cannot be silent because silence is actually violence,” Stanton said.
Diane Ariza, Vice President of Diversion, Equity, and Inclusion, was the final speaker before the BSU hosted justice walk. She started off by thanking the Black Student Union for taking time to organize and honor an event for Smith-Fields.
“But, the call for justice does not stop here with these women. How do we call for justice for the number of women of color, who continue to be unseen and invisible to larger society ?” Ariza said.
Psychology major Leyana McKeithen was a participant in the justice walk.
“I wanted to be a part of this walk because I believe this is a very serious problem in America. I know walking in this event may not solve the problem but at least we’re bringing awareness to it,” McKeithen said. “I like attending events like this so it was great to see this on my own campus.”
The walk lasted about 10 minutes and got a lot of positive attention throughout the campus by spectators. Both staff and students attended the event.