Speak Up, Pt. II

By Khadijah Forrest , The Black Bear - Missouri State University’s African-American students were at the center of attention during the fall 2014 semester. It began when about 35 students gathered for a silent demonstration during MSU Homecoming’s Bearfest Village on Oct. 18 to bring awareness to police brutality against African-Americans. The demonstration was called “Homecoming Blackout.”

On Nov. 1 in Carrington Hall, student leaders and the Blackout organizers hosted Speak Up Pt. II. The goal was to have an open discussion with students, faculty, and staff on what really happen the day of the silent demonstration and to answer any questions or listen to concerns.

Speak Up, Pt. I was held earlier in the semester, at least a month before Homecoming Blackout. There, students gathered to discuss discrimination and racial tension on campus.

Only a handful of students, faculty and staff were present at Speak Up, Pt. I.

“I think, this time, we had a more diverse group of students, which is great because you want different perspectives when talking about this topic,” said Speak Up organizer and PHA President, Morgan McNeal.

Speak Up, Pt. II attracted an audience three times larger than the first event.

“I think its great that we had more administrators, staff, and faculty to speak on what the university is doing. I definitely think this was a way better turnout than what we had the first time,” said McNeal.

IFC President and Speak Up organizer, Jared Bajkowski was also pleased with how the audience participated in the conversation.

“The distribution and demographics that were present was amazing because I think a lot of people were able to take ownership in this matter… and to see how white people still play a role in this power imbalance,” Bajkowski said.

The Black Bear reporter Christina Gardner addresses a question to Kyle Moats by referring to her interview with him on chalking. Credit: Angela Agaen

The Black Bear reporter Christina Gardner addresses a question to Kyle Moats by referring to her interview with him on chalking. Credit: Angela Agaen

Speak Up, Pt. II was split into four settings: The nature of the blackout, response of the tailgaters, response of the university, and the increase of student involvement.

Blackout organizer and NPHC President, Robert Colyer, began the event by explaining why Homecoming Blackout had to happen.

Many people had different reactions. Some supported the movement and some were confused on what the purpose of the demonstration was.

Many questioned why more people weren’t aware the demonstration was going to take place.

“Because we just knew someone or something was going to try and get in the way,” said senior Blackout organizer Ryan Johnson.

Dean of Students, Mike Jungers, and Executive Director of Multicultural Programs and Student Diversity, Francine Pratt, were included in the preparation for the demonstration.

They wanted to ensure the safety and well-being of the demonstrators, because no one knew what kind of reactions the tailgaters were going to progress during the event.

The silent protesters said they heard a numerous amount of racial slurs that day. They were told not to retaliate in anyway to any verbal comments or anything physical.

“I never heard the ‘N’ word spoken so many times,” said Coyler.

Some students at the discussion expressed how they no longer felt safe on Missouri State’s campus.

“I do not feel safe on MSU’s campus. I don’t know what to expect every day,” a student said.

Another student said, “I am not scared. What I am concerned with is what [White] people think of me.”

During the silent protest, some of the participants wore masks to hide their identities because they did not feel comfortable showing their faces in fear of what their peers or professors would say to them after the demonstration.

One demonstrator said she feared that if her professors saw her in the demonstration, her grades would drop.

The Black Bear released an exclusive interview with President Clif Smart days after the silent protest and many listeners were either upset or confused by the comments and responses he made about the demonstration.

One of his comments was that the signs the demonstrators held at the protest disappointed him.

Some of the signs read “Hands Up Dont Shoot!” and “Black Lives Matter”.

A student at the discussion, Kelechi Ezeuka, asked President Smart, “Why are the actual signs more controversial than the crimes that inspired them?

President Smart stood up and made a response. But when asked if Ezeuka’s question was answered, she said it wasn’t.

Junior and one of the Speak Up, Pt. II hosts, Jakobi Connor, went on to ask Ezeuka’s question once more. President Smart responded again, but still did not answer her question.

The last issue discussed was what the university is doing to enforce the Public Affairs mission?

Before Speak Up, Pt. 2, Wes Pratt, president of the Office of Institutional Equality and Compliance, said, “Where is the action from the faculty? Our faculty needs to be more engaged.”

Some solutions were to have faculty learn the mission and believe in it, offer more courses to students that teach the mission, other than the standard GEP classes. Another suggestion was for the university, as a whole, to spread more unity throughout campus.

Junior digital film major, Kiara Taylor, had this to say, “I know there are faculty and staff members that are trying to help and want to help, but there’s also some that don’t. They’re either uneducated on it, or they don’t know how to handle it. They give you politically correct answers, without actually trying to tackle the problems.”

Event organizers ask that if students want to get involved in future events and discussions surrounding issues of racism on campus, to text 314-782-3843. They also ask that you include your first and last name.

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