Why Race Matters at Barry U

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.

Photo Credit to CNBC

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.” 

Photo Credit to Emma James

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. 

Photo Credit to Al Jazeera

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.”