by, Christine Nappi & Kelly Cwik, Features Editor & Contributor
The Manhattan College Black Student Union and Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center co-hosted “A Chat with BSU and LWGRC on the BLM Movement and its Origins,” on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Mamady Ballo, a junior international studies major and president of the BSU, and Ashley Cross, Ph.D., faculty co-Director of the LWGRC, led the discussion in the hopes of educating the campus community on the BLM movement.
“Our job is to be able to help student groups be able to do the things they want to do, to lend support in both human power, and also in whatever resources that we can get,” Cross said. “We just wanted to really support Black women activists, [who] were the founders of Black Lives Matter.”
The event began with the TedTalk “An Interview with the Founders of Black Lives Matter.” The founders of BLM, Alicia Garez, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, discussed a plethora of topics from the importance of Black Lives Matter in the U.S. and across the world to what they’ve learned about leadership and what inspires them and gives them hope. At the end, Garez told the audience how to get involved.
“Be a part of something,” Garez said. “There are groups, collectives– it doesn’t have to be a nonprofit. But there are groups that are doing work in our communities right now to make sure that Black lives matter so that all lives matter.”
Ashley Baptiste, vice president of BSU, learned a lot from the video on the BLM movement. She finds that education on the topic is crucial to enacting change in society.
“When I was watching a video, I learned a lot of stuff that I didn’t know,” Baptiste said. “I feel like, just being knowledgeable and being educated on the specific topic is very important even before you go out there and you advocate, you have to know what you’re fighting for.”
Ballo describes that discussing the topic of BLM and its origins are important during this time to combat racial injustices. She finds holding this event was an essential component in educating the student body.
“This is a crucial time to have a discussion,” Ballo said. “The Black Lives Matter movement has been something that’s been going on for years. It has affected many people, mentally, physically, and it is time for the discussion to be had.”
After showing the video, Ballo led a conversation amongst event attendees with a series of four questions, asking what the movement means and the goal of it. Event attendee Michael Ramajo describes that the movement is meant to create an inclusive community.
“The Black Lives Matter movement, it’s about acknowledging the existence of Black people and making sure that Black people are free to live however they want and how they choose,” Ramajo said. “They won’t stop until all of their lives matter and that no matter who they are, no matter their race, sexual orientation, religion, or whatever, they’re still acknowledged and treated equally.”
Adding on to Ramajo’s statement, event attendee Marshall Strawbridge discussed the fact that Black Lives Matter has other goals in different cities. He mentioned the work that BLM Chicago is doing in demanding to close Homan Square where it is said that 7,000 people have vanished.
“It isn’t just those general sort of principles,” Strawbridge said. “There are sort of localized definite sort of goals they have that you can find if you start on a more local level.”
The discussion moved to Ballo’s next topic of discussion, where she questioned which Black lives matter to BLM, in regards to those who abide by the law and those who don’t. Event attendee Fatoumata Saho describes that each Black life matters to the BLM movement.
“I don’t feel like we are in a place to say someone’s life doesn’t matter, whether or not they did something wrong,” Saho said.
The event went over an hour as the conversation continued and addressed important topics relating to the movement.
Baptise found the discussion to be successful among the event attendees, and describes its importance considering the climate the country is currently in. She encourages people to learn more about BLM and it’s origins in order to effectively contribute to the cause.
“[With] the current climate of racial injustice I feel like the discussion should be had,” Baptiste said. “And I just feel like some people, I think they’re just going along with what ever is happening. I think to just know where that stemmed from and where that came from, the roots of this movement is important. And that’s why I think the video is very essential right now.”
The BSU and LWGRC collaborated to also create a conversation around another crucial topic: the inclusivity of women in society. Ballo and Cross describe that the event also touched on this topic because the founders of the BLM movement are women.
“I feel this topic is important because the world is changing, especially with having the first-ever female elect vice president, It needs to be had,” Ballo said. “Women in general… we’re the dominating face of the world. We are changing, we’re dominating in every field right now, every playing field and people need to know that we stand up with them proud.”
Cross finds that creating conversation on the topics of BLM and the women’s movement is the first step to solving any injustices. As she describes, creating conversation is crucial to the learning process.
“Conversation is the most important thing that we can have about issues that are important, and that can be controversial or that are for people to learn– people learn through conversation,” Cross said.
Baptiste encourages all Jaspers to educate themselves on the topic and become involved in BSU. She describes that the club is open to all people, regardless of race, and hopes to increase club participation.
Ballo, BSU and the LWGRC hope this event impacted the Jasper community in a positive way, such that students and faculty are inspired to make a change. Ballo hopes this event will not only educate students and faculty, but will also encourage them to act on the topic at hand.
“I hope that this event has an impact on not only students but faculty,” Ballo said. “You can know a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement, but also you need to think about it from the perspective of students. They have their own experience, they already have lived through their lives’ experience, but as this generation [keeps] going and changing, we’re at a different ball game than where [the generation of faculty] were, what they were able to be like okay let’s dust off, we’re not going to be able to do. I think that’s why this talk is so important.”