Sophomore Akilah Ho-Young never thought her Facebook post of the “Black Lives Matter” flag flying outside the Davis Center would become as viral as it did.
Her post was shared over 14,000 times from people across the nation.
The response to the flag left her “shocked, extremely happy and lost for words.”
Ho-Young said she felt “something needs to be done on this campus to draw awareness to the fact that people of color are here.”
Sophomore Haydee Miranda said the University’s actions this month showed its commitment to inclusivity.
Others, like senior Angelica Crespo, had mixed emotions about the flag.
“When the flag first went up, I was proud…and a bit scared,” Crespo said. “It set the bar way higher in terms of social justice and being inclusive.”
Crespo said she was scared because she felt the divide.
“When the flag was stolen, I was not surprised,” she said. “Racism on this campus … is not new to people of color.”
I think the second flag was an even better statement because it showed our commitment and perseverance,” Crespo said.
After reading about NYU’s “Black Out,” Ho- Young and Miranda were inspired and decided to do something similar by creating the UVM Blackout Facebook event.
They created a video in their dorm room explaining the event and encouraging everyone to acknowledge the events that have recently happened in the U.S.
“At 11 at night, we grabbed our laptops and wrote our purpose and expectations of the event and sent it out to any and everyone on the UVM campus,” Ho-Young said.
People of all races and backgrounds gathered at the Davis Center oval to pay their respects for the events that have happened in the past few weeks.
The Facebook event page stated, “This is NOT a protest, it is a PEACEFUL action of solidarity to support and celebrate the black community and their alliances.”
However, negative comments were posted on articles, posts and pictures of the flag. The flag was stolen the night before the event.
The negative reaction did not prevent Ho-Young from holding the rally.
“The negativity was not a concern,” Ho-Young said. “We were just concerned for the safety of the folks at the event and were glad that the UVM Police were on our side.”
Peace extended throughout the crowd as people hugged their friends and neighbors, showing support and love.
Over 200 people said they would be attending the event, according to facebook. Others posted and gave support for the cause.
As Ho-Young and Miranda both stood on the newly engraved “justice” bench, they spoke about how much the flag meant to them and held a moment of silence for all who have been affected by police shootings and protests.
“UVM’s role in social justice is prominent on campus, but so much more can still be done by the UVM community to cater to different identities,” Ho-Young said.
“I will speak out for what is dearest to my heart…being a person of color is important to me in a community where I don’t always feel seen.”
Crespo suggests that people interested in getting involved should “mostly, read up on the BLM movement and educate [themselves],” she said.
“Students of color have enough explaining, teaching and healing to do… it’s better to add to the conversation than to ask students of color on this campus to educate you as well.”