‘I want to be a human being’ – What happened when students rallied for Black lives

‘Our goal is to disrupt the mundane everyday routine’

Marsh Plaza was filled with BU students, faculty, members of Black Lives Matter Cambridge, UMAmhearst, Sign Language groups and residents of Boston as they gathered for the Black Lives Matter Mass Exit put together by The School of Social Work Student Organization. A Facebook event was sent out to 1.1K people spreading the news to people all around Boston.

Eunice Kwon, one of the student hosts of the event, came together with other second year students at the School of Social Work to think about what they could do to wake up people to today’s issues. Kwon said that, “it seems like nothing is happening here at BU. There is a big lack of voicing social issues.” Marsh Chapel and the Student Service Organization were very supportive of the event, but BU itself has made no comments.

Although Kwon herself is not black, she feels that while this movement is not being lead by anyone in particular, it needs to unite everyone. Kwon worked together with several students and The School of Social Work Student Organization to, “create a space and opportunity for this to happen and want brown and black voices to be heard.”

The protesters met at 3pm appropriately under the Free at Last sculpture, which commemorates Martin Luther King Jr. The protest was set to a schedule that was posted earlier on the Facebook event page. At 3:10pm the crowd began listing off names of black people who have been wrongfully killed. Names like, “Treyvone Martin, Alton Sterling, Jessica Williams, Maya Hall, and Alexia Christian,” were listed as a large group who had marched from CFA joined in chanting “Black Lives Matter”. The listing of the names was followed by a moment of silence for four minutes and 28 seconds long to commemorate the four hours and 28 minutes that Michael Brown’s body was left in the street. Students from UMAmhearst then passed out strands of cloth that the crowd tied and held together to illustrate their unity.

Throughout the hour and a half rally, the crowd grew as people walking on Comm Ave joined to see what was happening. A grandmother was walking by with her two-year-old granddaughter when she came across the rally. “I’m not confident that things will ever get better,” said the woman. “I don’t see it getting much better unless people here believe in what they say and don’t become part of the problem.”

When Vanessa Kuria, a BU undergrad student, was asked when she would stop rallying, she was caught off-guard. “Is that a trick question? I want my life to be worth just as with as much as a white persons’s. I don’t want to bring kids into this world if they will be unsafe or systematically oppressed. I want to be a human being. I don’t think I’ll see it happen in my lifetime but I will rally until I die,” said Kuria.

Although not all the protestors were optimistic about the future, speakers such as Jordan Zepher, Negin Talebelhosseind, and Dr. Ron Richardson inspired the crowd with motivating words and poems. In a poem she wrote for the movement, Zepher, a BU grad student, encouraged the crowd, “the people who are tired, we change things. We aren’t alone. We will win.”

Negin Talebelhosseind, a BU undergrad student, made some demands to BU itself stating, “administration needs to openly stand against white supremacy and support their students of color through representation and other systemic changes”. The School of Social Work Student Organization posted a list of demands for BU on their Facebook page listing what they want to see be done. 

After listing his many encounters with racism, Dr. Ron Richardson, a BU professor of African American Studies and History,  supported Black Lives Matter against it’s opposing movement All Lives Matter. “All lives matter and that’s why we’re here. All lives do matter, including ours,” Dr. Richardson said.

Jess Gulotta, a BU student undergrad student, explained, “My first women’s study’s class taught me about the intersectionality of oppression. All the oppressed groups need to work together to achieve justice or we won’t get anywhere. As a women’s rights activist, I don’t see how I can not do something.”

This was the first Black Lives Matter rally Esen Harris, a BU undergrad student, has been to, and it put him in a bit of an awkward position. “It’s hard when it goes against what some of your friends believe, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do when it’s right.”

With so many coming together for such a controversial movement, some people were a little overwhelmed. “I grew up in a conservative community I just kind of learned how to deal with it but I never realized I would be so uncomfortable here at a rally,” said Harris. “Even though I’ve experienced racism, and my parents and grandparents too, people still try to say it’s not a real issue, but it really is.”