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Photo courtesy of Briscoe Turner, Vice President of UMBC's Black Lives Matter.

UMBC leadership, listen to Black voices

As the Black communities of this country have been tirelessly organizing, protesting and educating in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement, we, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Black Lives Matter, feel it’s vital to highlight the pivotal role that academic institutions play in failing the Black community as a whole. Whether it’s through denying us access to resources and facilities, teaching us revisionist history lessons or discounting our experiences, the education system at large has perpetuated the myth that Whiteness is the superior standard we must aspire to.

Black people are all too familiar with the cycle of defending our humanity just to be ignored, and that has to end now. While we value many of the positive attributes of UMBC, there is still room for improvement, and addressing the need for change should not fall solely on the shoulders of Black students.

Therefore, we cannot entirely accept UMBC as the pillar of inclusive excellence that it claims to be. Inclusive excellence requires the university to continuously engage in critical self-examination and commit to adequately addressing instances of racial inequality and injustice, no matter how tedious it may seem.

Black students, faculty and staff should be able to hold the university accountable and feel confident that they will attain tangible action rather than backlash. The Black community should never have to question if they are truly supported, valued and celebrated by UMBC.

As a reminder, real change does not come from carefully crafted statements of support, superficial policy changes or handpicked “diversity and inclusion” committees that lack Black voices. We see through those surface-level initiatives.

Real change requires those in power to sit with discomfort and do the work to confront the problem head on.

It is unacceptable to stay complacent because you think racial injustice is a complex or hard issue to tackle. Being Black is complex and hard, yet we manage to wake up and face the world every day.

Alongside accountability, many of the Black students at UMBC have expressed their desire for a mentorship program with the Black Faculty and Staff Association.

As a Black student, it can be difficult navigating college without having someone you can identify with and look to for guidance, so UMBC Black Lives Matter is drafting a plan to jumpstart this mentorship program. We feel that this mentorship program will offer tailored support to Black students pursuing educational, professional and personal endeavors, and we would love to see the BFSA and UMBC as a whole prioritize the development of this program, as it would aid in uplifting the Black community.

Equally important, UMBC could extend more support to its Black community by working to maintain the Africana Studies department. This includes, but is not limited to, increasing the number of Black faculty and courses offered within the department, which would be achieved through a greater allocation of funds.

As the majority of the UMBC Black Lives Matter e-board is involved in the Africana Studies department, this department is a vital educational tool for those of the African diaspora to learn more about their roots and is also integral for nonmembers of the African diaspora to enlighten themselves to our rich cultural history.

But above all, the Africana Studies department plays a fundamental role in challenging our education system’s Eurocentric patterns of thinking and teaching by providing an imperative narrative that expands our understanding of the world.

Beyond the classroom, there are also several other Black Student Organizations and student activists on campus fighting for a change and validating Black experiences.

Some of these active Black Student Organizations on campus include: the Black Student Union, the African Student Association, the Caribbean Students Council, the Ethiopian-Eritrean Student Association, Curl PWR, the Association of Black Artists, the Black Graduate Student Organization and the National Pan-Hellenic Council. While these are only a few of the Black Student Organizations working to empower the Black community, each organization is equally deserving of support.

Additionally, Black Involvement Fest, which started last fall, is a great opportunity for incoming and current Black students to familiarize themselves with these organizations, and moving forward, we challenge everyone to listen to and support them.

At the end of the day, we love being Black. We love our culture, our stories, our talents and our accomplishments. That will never change. It’s the institutions that uphold racism that need to change.

Written by UMBC Black Lives Matter