Students peacefully protest discrimination on campus at BlackOut

Students place sticky notes with their experiences and feelings about discrimination on a poster in the Campus Center. (Photo by Evan Bourtis)

By Evan Bourtis staff writer

Fisher’s Black Student Union (BSU) hosted a peaceful protest on Feb. 12, to bring awareness to discrimination and lack of diversity on campus.

During the BlackOut, students who have felt oppressed by their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender stood in solidarity in Campus Center Atrium with signs. The event also featured speeches from members of campus diversity clubs and from students who spoke about promoting equality.

Some students, above and below, carried posters with messages about discrimination. (Photos by Evan Bourtis)

The BlackOut has been held by several colleges across the country, including Syracuse, Nazareth, and several in the Ivy League, for similar reasons. BSU has hosted a BlackOut on two other occasions, in 2016 and 2017, mostly in response to police brutality against African Americans. According to an email from BSU, this year’s protest was more centered on oppression in campus community and aimed at addressing the two incidents over break: the vandalism of the statue of Frederick Douglass and the video of cheerleaders using the N-word.

Speakers at the BlackOut spoke about times where they have felt isolated because of their race or have heard students say things that made them uncomfortable.

 

One of them was BSU president Jocelyne Hakizimana, who spoke about how the incidents over the break made black students on campus feel. “Let’s keep real, these two recent events didn’t come as a shock to any of us,” she said. “It’s not about the use of the N-word or ruining a statue of a prominent figure. It’s about the lack of acknowledgement, the lack of understanding, and the lack of respect. This has been the trend here at Fisher since my freshman year and I’m a senior now.”

Another speaker was Zainab Bah, who spoke about how the campus community can show more respect for other races and cultures. “It takes leadership, growth, and education to realize that there’s an issue on this campus,” she said. “Many of you may be incompetent to understand why we hold the BlackOut, but many of us fail to realize that different cultural backgrounds, personal characteristics, and life situations are being unconscionably disregarded…We must come together to bring change and this is the first step.”

Students also discussed solutions to these problems. According to speaker Oskarys Fermin, the best way to create a welcoming campus for all races is for students to interact with people that look different from themselves. “Interact with people that don’t look like you, ask them about their day…It’s just about being friendly and being kind,” she said.

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The Blackoout protest was held in the Campus Center on Feb. 12. (Photo by Evan Bourtis)

Fermin also said that there’s a lot that the college administration can do to create campus environment that values diversity. For example, she suggested organizing freshman orientation to encourage people of different races to interact.

“During freshman orientation, students often just go to the groups of people that they feel like represents themselves and I think that if during orientation, you promoted talking to people who were different from yourself, then that would promote change,” she explained.

Another person who attended the BlackOut was Kenneth Caminero, a member of Black Student Union and Latino Student Union. “I decided to attend the BlackOut because it means something to me and it means something to the individuals who are here right now,” Caminero said. “It means that we are standing here in unity and understand that there’s a problem and we want to feel other acknowledge that there’s a problem.”

Caminero is of Dominican descent and said that his own culture helps him to appreciate and respect other cultures on campus, as well as people with different religions, sexual orientations, and backgrounds. “Be being Dominican helps me to be understanding of other cultures. That’s what my parents taught me to believe in and that’s what my culture tells me to believe,” he explained.

Caminero has plans to speak to President Gerard Rooney about creating a more inclusive college campus.

 

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