A West African drum boomed down Academy Street as rally organizers used megaphones to chant “hands up” and marchers responded “don’t shoot.” Students, faculty, and community members marched to Bronson Park as part of National Day of Action Against Mass Incarceration and Police Brutality last Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 11:30 a.m.
“Unfortunately, this is how the country works: black youth die at the hands of police, and today we’re stating black lives matter,” said Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac, co-founder of the grassroots organization Black Lives Matter and a visiting fellow at the Arcus Center for Social Justice and Leadership (ACSJL).
This rally started after more than 70 days of protests following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The Kalamazoo College student organizations Black Girls Rock, El Movimiento Estudiantil de Chicanos y Chicanas de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A.), and Black Student Organization (B.S.O) assembled this rally as part of a day of nationwide protests called National Day of Action Against Mass Incarceration and Police Brutality. In the past two weeks students from these organizations have visited Ferguson.
Some K students swapped shifts and skipped class, and at least 75 people marched to Bronson Park. Cullors-Brignac emphasized “the intersection between academia and community is critical.”
Student Maya Jo Edery, K’15 attended the rally and said “If I wasn’t here I would be going home and watching ‘Parks and Recreation.’” She spoke briefly of her education. “There are so many classes that preach change, but it’s time we got off our asses.”
After speaking at Bronson, Cullors-Brignac asked for a moment of silence for the deceased black youth. K student Rian Brown, K’16 then spoke. “We should be happy we got together today to say Black Lives Matter,” and the ralliers chorused her words.
By the time the marchers returned to campus they attracted more marchers, and near the end they were at least 100 in number. While the student organizations planned the rally, the College originally asked students not to protest on campus, but Brown said “if they don’t want it: shut it down.”
Cullors-Brignac asked the ralliers to lie down on the Quad. On the count of three all marchers dropped as if shot dead like Michael Brown. But Cullors-Brignac noted the critical difference: “know that you can stand back up.”