Black Lives Matter brings students together

Olivia Bowman and Kelsey Neubauer

Although the Black Lives Matter flag is no longer flying in front of the Davis Center, the discussion is far from over.


The Student Life faculty hosted a “Blackout 2.0: Creating Space to Reflect and Heal” Oct. 3 in the Davis Center as an event centered around reflection, action and healing.


Blackout 2.0 gave students of color the opportunity to discuss events in a racial affinity space, a space where those with the same social identities can discuss topics with those who share that identity.


“The big question remains ‘How do we make it so we all matter?’” Pat Brown, director of Student Life, said. “We are an educational institution, a space for ideas where we can begin to answer those big questions.”


The Blackout 2.0 space was planned by Ferene Paris Meyer, First-Year Experience program director  and Eric Carnaje, program coordinator for Orientation and First-Year Experience, according to an email sent out to the ALANA Listserv.


“[The flag] was taken down and given to the ALANA student center,” he said. “They will be able to hang it in their offices or do whatever they wish with it from now on.”


The Women’s Coalition of Color also made a safe space to reflect on the campus’ events of the past week.


The coalition held a meeting to discuss the events and their effects on students Sept. 29.


“It has been a really tough week to be a person of color,” senior Angelica Crespo said. “You don’t get a day off… but we can’t afford to let our voices die out.”


There were subsequent demonstrations that occurred around Burlington as a result of the flag being raised.


The unplanned Sept. 24 removal of the flag is being investigated as a theft.


Junior Rachel Altman said she considered the theft of the flag to be a hate crime in a Sept. 25 Cynic article.


Ambivalent responses to the movement span the country and have come to the forefront of the national political discussion, especially with the presidential election’s only a month away.


This was in large part because UVM is the only public institution to have publicly supported the flag and many have voiced opposition to the University’s explicit support of the movement.


The Black Lives Matter movement has been a contentious topic in social and political discourse since its formation in 2012, after the death of a 17-year old black male, Trayvon Martin.


Black Lives Matter identifies some motivators of the movement as implicit bias in policing and racial segregation and subsequent policing in cities due to redlining in the mid-20th century, according to their website.


The phrase “All Lives Matter” cropped up in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement.


“All lives matter, but black lives are not being treated as if they do and until then All Lives Matter is invalid,” said sophomore Akilah Ho-Young in her speech at the Sept. 26 rally.


The first time mass protests used the Black Lives Matter name was in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 after 18-year old Michael Brown, who was unarmed, was killed by a police officer.


The movement is a one-issue group that aims to stop police brutality in order to reinstate the dignity of black lives and rebuild the black liberation movement, according to their website.


At UVM this week, both sides of the issue have vocalized intense emotions because of the flag raising.
“My body filled with lots of joy to know that my predominantly white University is paying tribute to the deaths in the black community,” said Ho-Young in a Facebook post that went viral. “It’s the littlest thing that just means so much to me.”