UMBC Black Lives Matter Week, held by a multitude of individuals, created discourse and interest through a series of events and activities spread throughout last week. These events were meant to create solidarity and educate members of the community.
“Originally, we wanted to create a large event for Black Solidarity Day, which fell on Nov. 1st. We met with Amnesty International President and Vice President, Mai-Han and Trevor, to see if they would be interested in collaborating,” said Markya Reed.
“Eventually we decided that we would plan several events over the course of a week, instead of a single event for Black Solidarity Day. We spent the next few days reaching out to students and organizations that might be interested in planning a full week’s worth of events.”
These events included: “What Matters To You?”, an Amnesty International Vigil, a Black Lives Matter Brave Space, election results discussion, a silent protest, step shows and an Amnesty International Black Lives Matter Poetry Slam.
Monday’s “What Matters To You?” and subsequent vigil were designed to attract those curious about the movement while, at the same time, educating those who may have any negative impression of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Tuesday’s Brave Space was a place for individuals to come and voice their frustrations in an open, welcoming environment.
“It was refreshing to hear viewpoints that were aligned with my own, as well as those that challenged my worldview. I personally believe it’s important to expand our understanding by listening to and engaging with people who we disagree with,” stated Tihira Turrell.
The other events served as opportunities for the community to show their support and celebrate some of the contributions made.
“An AP English teacher from Frederick Douglas actually messaged us a few days prior to the event [on Thursday], asking if he could bring his students to participate in the events. It was encouraging to see our community come together like this,” according to Reed.
When asked if Black Lives Matter Week was planned as a result of the election, Vivian Bethea said, ” As a group, we have been trying to bring attention to the movement for about two months, and have been in the process of trying to become a student organization since the summer. That being said, although we felt that the timing of the week was appropriate because of the effect that the elections had on some individuals, we did not intend to use the movement as a response to the results.”
However, Joshua Massey said, “From the conversations I had during the week, it seems as though the overarching need surfaced by the results of the election is the need to educate people about not only the struggles of African Americans, but also all other marginalized groups.”
Throughout the week, Black Lives Matter received some backlash through social media such as negative remarks on Facebook/Yik Yak, racist grafitti/posters, and chalking on Academic Row. Those who criticized the movement were invited to come to events and learn what the movement was about.
“We would show up to our selected venue, nervous that no one would show up, and every single time we ended up with way more people than any of us expected. This really spoke to us. The BLM week and movement was more necessary than we realized,” stated Kayla Smith.
“In the midst of the world and its political climate, I truly believe that we could make a statement to ourselves and to the work that Black lives truly matter,” stated Vanessa Barksdale.