By Layth Ismail,
F&M’s Black Student Union (BSU) held its second Civil Rights Week this past week, hoping to promote campus discussion of the issues civil rights issues. Throughout the week BSU organized and held several events, including an open mic night, a Common Hour speaker, and more.
Cayla Young ’15, president of BSU, believes the main principle behind Civil Rights Week is education and its central role in promoting equality.
“We should not ignore anyone else in our fight to be equal, and one way we can achieve equality is by educating one another about things that are happening in the world and encouraging people to have conversations and take action,” she said.
Several events and displays went on during the week to encourage dialogue. From Monday to Thursday, 18 hoodies were hung on portable walls in the atrium of the Steinman College Center (SCC), each describing incidents similar to the story of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen who was shot and killed in 2012. On Tuesday and Wednesday, BSU sold t-shirts and gave free buttons to students. At the Dining Hall Tuesday night, BSU held a Trayvon Martin Remembrance Ceremony and Soul Foods gathering. Additionally, on Thursday, BSU held an open mic in the SCC.
“We wanted to broaden our focus this year,” Young said. “Last year was about the Trayvon Martin case and how it affected civil rights. This year, we looked to talk about civil rights by means of race, gender, sex, etc.”
In keeping with the goal of discussing gender and sex during Civil Rights Week, the Alice Drum Women’s Center sponsored a women’s panel and discussion on Monday night in Stahr Auditorium in Stager Hall, which focused on the intersection of gender and civil rights issues.
BSU also hosted Michael Eric Dyson, an author and professor of sociology at Georgetown University, who spoke at Common Hour on America’s progress towards equality and the continuing importance of civil rights today. This came after last year’s Civil Rights Week, during which BSU brought Cornel West, an activist, author, and scholar, to campus for a Common Hour lecture.
Civil Rights Week was created by Chyann Starks ’13 following the death of Trayvon Martin. Realizing that not many people were aware of the incident, Starks sought to educate members of the F&M community about the many facets of civil rights and their impact on people living today.
Young also believes in the importance of Civil Rights Week and looks forward to hosting it again.
“I would imagine that we would use the portable walls for displaying things all week long,” she said, discussing potential ideas for next year. “Other events are unique to the speaker that we choose, therefore, they will be different.”
First-year Layth Ismail is a contributing writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.