Op-Ed | Our Voices Must Be Heard

Op-Ed+%7C+Our+Voices+Must+Be+Heard

Courtesy of Amarachi Onwuka

By Nana Gyabaah-Kessie, president of the African Students Organization; Blya Ange Krouba, vice president of the African Students Organization; Cameron Clarke, president of the Caribbean and Latin American Students Association

On May 25, one man allowed his racist judgment to turn what would have been a normal procedure into a lethal occurrence. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds the black community watched these prejudices and ill-intended attention resulting in the unjustifiable killing of father, brother, neighbor and fellow black man, George Floyd. It is extremely painful to constantly witness the dehumanization of black people in different parts of the Diaspora, but even more disappointing in a place that is known as “the land of the free.”

As the civil rights leader Malcolm X said, “That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.” Deplorably, about 70 years later, these words still ring true. Killing after killing, black lives continue to be stolen. How can our minds be at peace when we are constantly seeing evil? How can we be calm when we are constantly harmed mentally and physically? How do we reclaim our inherent titles as Kings and Queens when we are viewed as dishonorable and shameful? As black people, WE ARE TIRED.

Our call to action is long overdue, and how we are perceived in this land can no longer prevent us from expressing our frustrations. Change must arise. Everyone in this nation must come to understand the atrocities that have been occurring to black people and demand a nonnegotiable, irreversible stop to it. We, the African Students Organization and the Carribean and Latin American Student Association, stand in solidarity with the efforts being put forth by the Black Lives Matter movement and adjacent community efforts. In order to have black voices heard and finally see change come forth, our organizations will continue to support black businesses and others that invest in black communities. We encourage our black brothers and sisters to continue to stay true to themselves and recognize their blackness as a blessing, even in these trying times.

Our organizations will work tirelessly to hold our University leadership accountable. It is not solely the responsibility of black students to respond to this kind of tumultuous era. But we are ready to reeducate and realign our University agenda moving forward so that it reflects and includes the needs of its black population. Moving forward, in order to bring about change beneficial to our black students, we are working on a list of specific demands for University leadership to fulfill. Such demands include instituting a hate speech policy in the Student Code of Conduct with stricter consequences, increasing black representation in our curriculums and generating funding specifically for black-organized activities. Our organizations will make our best effort to hold our University leadership, investors and surrounding students to a higher standard in light of these sorts of instances.

Our delayed response is not due to insensitivity toward current events, but is simply due to the strain that this event has put on our mental health. As students representing all dimensions of the Diaspora, let us not forget who the real enemy is. This is not a Diaspora war, nor is this just an American issue. Whether we identify as African, Latinx, Caribbean or anything similar, we are black. The black community worldwide has disproportionately been afflicted and subjugated because of members’ skin color — racism in America and colonization abroad. Our fight here in the United States is a wake up call. Our plight must be shown and heard around the world. As you fight, we fight alongside you. As you hurt, so do we. As you heal, we are made whole.

To the students who are not black, witness what is happening in the streets, listen to what we have to say and understand why there must be change. The color of our skin should not define our right to breathe. All lives cannot matter unless black lives do.

To City officials, we condemn your violence against peaceful protesters and demand a stop to it. We have watched peaceful protesters be harassed and attacked with tear gas and rubber bullets. Enough is enough.

Our organizations, above all, stand with the family of George Floyd. We are praying for peace and justice to bring them a calmness that will comfort them in the wake of the loss of a great father, brother, husband and friend. We also stand with the families of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and hundreds of others struck by the loss of loved ones due to these racially charged killings.

We are done dying, we are done slipping through the cracks and we are done “falling short” of society’s expectations. We will NOT stop fighting. We WILL be the change. 

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

In solidarity, striving for justice.

Nana Gyabaah-Kessie is a rising senior molecular biology major and president of the African Students Organization.

Blya Ange Krouba is a rising senior studio arts major and vice president of the African Students Organization.

Cameron Clarke is a rising senior anthropology major and president of the Caribbean and Latin American Students Association.

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