For the past week, an impassioned group of Maryville College students have been participating in a “black out” — wearing black clothing to show solidarity in the face of the recent events dealing with police brutality and racial inequality, as well as meeting each day in front of Thaw Hall for discussion and a period of silent observation.
In light of the recent Ferguson debacle and the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of policemen, conversations have been happening in the media and all over the country about the state of equality in the world today. MC senior Germani Williams decided that this week, MC students should also be having this conversation.
With the help of fellow BSA leaders Iman Harris and Xavier Sales, Williams organized a Black Out Week on campus in the hopes of encouraging positive, open conversation among students about police brutality in the US.
“We wanted to bring light to those issues on campus,” Williams said, “and talk about how it does influence everybody. But we really wanted to focus on African Americans because African Americans do suffer the most from police brutality in the US.”
In the peaceful daily gatherings, Williams and other organizers — including Sales, Harris and multiple faculty members — have invited all students present to talk about their feelings on the issues at hand and then observed a four minute and 30 second moment of silence to reflect the four hours and 30 minutes Michael Brown’s body was left on the street.
Every day this week, the number of faculty, staff and student supporters joining in William’s initiative has grown. Virginia Johnson, a sophomore, has attended each of the gatherings.
“I think this is really important because it opens up a dialogue on campus even though some people are saying really hateful things to us right now, we’re talking about it and we’re getting our points across, sharing facts and why this is important and I think that the most important thing is letting people know that this isn’t ok, what happened, and we’re going to keep fighting until change happens,” Johnson said.
Williams and Sales both addressed the crowd in front of Thaw at the gathering on Thursday, Dec. 4, along with Dr. Francis Henderson Associate Professor of Political Science, Rev. Dr. Anne Mckee, and many other faculty members. Sales ended their presentation with these words:
“These moments right here that we are experiencing, this is time in which we have the most power to actively influence the world that we live in. Although we may not agree on how exactly this issue needs to be handled…at the end of the day, we should all at least be able to acknowledge that the loss of a life is a very sad experience…we can’t just wait for someone else to solve the problem.”
Although the final official Black Out Week event was Friday, Dec. 5, Williams plans to continue this conversation on campus next semester.
“We know with finals coming up it’s a really hard time to try to do anything else, but we are planning to do more events surrounding these issues next semester as well. We want people to feel like they have a voice and it’s within our rights to be able to do things like this. We hope that people feel inspired and encouraged to stand up for their beliefs.”
Williams, Sales and many others at the college feel that this conversation is one that must keep going. And, despite the nature of many protests on the national level, these MC leaders have made it clear that violence and outrage are not the answer.
At its heart, the initiative is one of unity and a common desire for a greater, more aware global community. As Williams put it simply:
“It’s about responding to ignorance with education and responding to hate with love.”