Over 100 students came together on Monday, September 26 to protest racial injustice, in response to the recent police shooting of Terence Crutcher, as well as the countless other murders of “black and brown bodies,” the March for Justice Facebook page.
The March for Justice began at noon with a gathering at the Rabb Steps and was followed by a march to the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) where students participated in a “die-in” on the floor of the atrium. Students who attended were asked to wear black. Many of the students involved in the Ford Hall 2015 protest were involved in organizing this event.
Once a large group of students had arrived at the Rabb steps, an organizer thanked everyone for coming and lamented that the gathering was not under better circumstances. He announced, “I think it’s pretty clear today why we’re all here. We’re still in an environment, we’re still on a campus, where our lives don’t feel validated.”
The crowd was silent as Nyah Macklin ’16 sang Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” to officially begin the march. While the haunting song about lynching still hung in the air, Macklin addressed the crowd. Former Student Union president Macklin was a negotiator during Ford Hall 2015.
She spoke of “the dream” that people of all backgrounds will join together and dedicate themselves to racial justice not just with hashtags or by having “that black friend,” but working actively for “this work that is liberating a people, that is dismantling systems that both oppress and kill us.”
It is vital to create spaces for both healing and mourning to exist without filter or judgment, she told the attentive crowd, urging them to take action.
She eloquently stated, “we are tired of marching. So feel the collective breath that is this community standing with us, and in generations past. All of our ancestors are watching. The time is now.”
Wil Jones ’18 directed a specific message to people “not of color,” asking them to devote time to thinking and reflection, so they can better understand what it feels like to be a person of color, and therefore become better able to take action, he said at the march.
He explained, “I want you to think, I want you to reflect, I want you to understand the differences in our positionality … I want you to understand that no one comes up to you with stories about their German or European ancestry with hopes of relation, like they do to me when they tell me four years ago they went on a trip to Africa.” He added, “and after y’all think, translate those thoughts … into action. I want to see you decolonize your own minds, and then colonize other minds.”
Students were invited to come before the crowd to express their feelings or share their personal experiences. Some students read poems they had written and spoke to the crowd.
At approximately 12:30, the march began down Rabb steps toward the SCC. Students held signs containing phrases such as, “Black Lives Matter,” “I am #BlackBrandeis, I am #FordHall,” “Indigenous for #BlackLivesMatter #Afro-Disapora” and “From Palestine to Charlotte to Puerto Rico We Shall Be Free.”
Students chanted as they marched. Chants included call and responses such as “no justice, no peace, no racist police,” and “It is our duty to fight for our freedom, it is our duty to win. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Upon reaching the SCC, the chanting continued as the crowd filed into the atrium. After some more remarks from event organizers, the group was asked to lay down on the floor for four minutes and imagine what it would be like to lay like this, not knowing what is going to happen next, not knowing if survival is guaranteed.
As the protestors lay, march organizers read aloud names and ages of people murdered by police brutality in the silent atrium. Finally, all who attended stood up and joined hands. Macklin asked everyone to join her in singing a hymn that echoed her previous statements that “our ancestors are watching.” Some students were visibly emotional. As the crowd began to disperse, the organizers expressed their gratitude for everyone who attended the march.