By Emma James
The Black Lives Matter Movement has been prevalent in the U.S. since 2013 when Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi teamed up to start the #BlackLivesMatter project in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, African American 17-year-old.
Since then, the movement has reached all corners of the U.S., gaining traction and attention due to the continuous murders of members of the Black community.
In response, Barry’s Center for Community Service Initiatives (CCSI) has joined the conversation about race by organizing a series of forums called “Deliberative Dialogue.” On Sept. 24, the series began with a discussion titled “Why Race Matters,” in which participants discussed the relationship between race and identity, what it means to be conscious of race, and how to combat systemic racism.
Deliberative Dialogue was designed to encourage people of all social groups to engage in discussions about race.
Over 160 Barry students and faculty joined in on the discussion, according to co-facilitator Amanda Knight, and the Facebook livestream of the forum had over 2,000 views in the first 24 hours.
Knight, a member of Barry’s Antiracism and Equity Coalition, hopes that the forums will inspire people to become activists for Black lives.
“There are so many examples from the distant past or even a week ago that show Black lives don’t matter in this country,” said Knight. “It is crucial that people get involved.”
Students interested in getting involved can attend the next forum on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 4 p.m.
Advocates for Black lives have also participated in other forms of engagement. Despite the continuing threat of COVID-19, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, protests sparked across the country.
Floyd was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill and was killed by officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for several minutes despite Floyd's repetition of the words, “I can’t breathe,” which became the mantra for protests against this injustice.
Charles Bell, one of the forum’s panelists and a graduate student majoring in sport, exercise, and performance psychology at Barry, believes the pandemic forced people to witness the effects of police brutality, which is why the protests began.
“I truly feel the reason this movement has blown up so much is because the world had no choice but to see George Floyd's death,” said Bell. “[Due to quarantine], we were all in the house doing one thing: watching TV.”
In response to these protests, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the Combatting Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act on Sept. 21. According to DeSantis’ administration, this legislation “creates new criminal offenses and increases penalties for those who target law enforcement and participate in violent or disorderly assemblies.”
The legislation concerned many peaceful protestors who fear the actions that officers may take to enforce it.
Still, the movement continued, beginning the fight for defunding the police after details regarding the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor were released to the public.
According to the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Public Integrity Unit’s (PIU) investigative file, three LMPD officers shot and killed Taylor in response to shots fired from her boyfriend, who believed that they were intruders. The officers had forced their way into the apartment without a search warrant, claiming that they were conducting a drug investigation.
None of the involved officers were indicted for Taylor’s murder.
In response to Taylor’s death, Knight argues that the training and education requirements for police forces should be put under review.
“Until this happens, we cannot begin to repair the negative relationship that many of our communities have with our police forces, whose function is supposed to be ‘to protect and serve’ those communities,” said Knight.
Members of Barry’s Black community note that it is because of cases like this, where officers go against protocol with no repercussions, that they protest.
“It is sad and horrific news, but it is fuel,” said Bell.
As police brutality continues, Barry students believe the activism surrounding the movement will not die down. Bell notes that he thinks the current movement will act as a catalyst for the future, emphasizing the importance of activism.
“We cannot address newer issues until the oldest issue in our history and the root to all other issues is resolved,” he said.
Knight seconds this, adding that systemic racism and police brutality have such deep roots in the principles this country was built on that they can’t be fixed by any one person; everyone must educate themselves and come together to fight against prejudice.
“Racism is a pandemic all its own,” said Knight.