Student body takes a stand on Ferguson and Racism

Students held a vigil at Springfield's Park Central Square in remembrance of Michael Brown. Photo credit: Christina Gardner

Students held a vigil at Springfield’s Park Central Square in remembrance of Michael Brown. Photo credit: Christina Gardner

Christina Gardner, The Black Bear – It has been two months since officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson. Since then, communities across the country have come together for rallies, demonstrations and discussions regarding the incident in Ferguson, as well as, the overall topic of racism. The Missouri State and Springfield communities have been a part of this movement.

It began a week before school started when Missouri State students and members of the Springfield community gathered at the square downtown to do a peaceful demonstration and have a moment of silence for Mike Brown.

Since then, students and the Office of Multicultural Services have put on a variety of different events to keep the talk going even months after the actual incident. These series of events included marches, forums and large group discussions, even into October these events are still happening.

“The students are doing a great job at not letting this drop,” said Francine Pratt, the executive director of the Office of Multicultural services.

Pratt has been involved in the majority of forums that have taken place since the start of the school year, but she gives all of the accolades to the students. “I give all the credit to the students. That is powerful within itself,” Pratt said.

One of the largest student led initiatives that stemmed from the Mike Brown incident is the series of Speak Up forums that have taken place on campus.

Speak Up began when members of the three Greek councils at Missouri State, NPHC, IFC and PHA met to discuss what they could do on campus to help get the discussion about race started while members of the student body were still talking about Ferguson.

“We wanted to strike while the iron was hot,” said Jared Bajkowski, president of the Interfraternity Council at Missouri State. The first Speak Up featured an open-ended topic of racism and was set in a large group setting. Speak Up, Part II will be more directed.

“We’re focusing on a more central topic: institutionalized racism.” Bajkowski said. This event will consist first of a large group discussion on the topic, them attendees will break into smaller groups so that everyone get to voice his or her opinion.

Aside from the Speak Up, discussions students have been working together toward three different task forces. The tasks include outreach, education, and call to action.

The call to action task force is currently planning a peaceful demonstration at the square on Nov. 8. The group is hoping to have a workshop beforehand with the Springfield police department in order to combat any tensions there may be between the two groups.

Bajkowski urged that the members of the task force are looking for people to get involved. “This is the first demonstration or protest that I’ve ever been involved in. We need all the help we can get,” Bajkowski said.

Speak Up, Part II will be held on Nov. 1 in Carrington Hall at 3 p.m.

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