Students chalked the Diag early Wednesday morning with messages in solidarity with black students on campus including phrases like “Black Lives Matter” and “white silence is a violence.” The students also posted fliers in Mason and Angell Hall, which feature positive messages along the same theme.
The chalking follows two separate protests drawing hundreds of students Monday and Tuesday in response to racially charged fliers found posted throughout campus Monday morning and a debate hosted by the Michigan Political Union on the merits of the Black Lives Matter movement.
LSA senior Sean Smith, the organizer of the chalking event, said he wanted to remind the community about the issues faced by the Black community at the University and also remind Black students of their value.
“Not only are we saying that black lives matter but that we are valued at this university, that we worked just as hard as everybody else to get here,” he said. “We are writing positive words of affirmation to uplift black people and Black lives, all Black lives.”
Smith noted that he organized the chalking of the Diag to continue the efforts of Black women on campus who organized the initial protests this week. He said that this was an opportunity for Black men and working allies to contribute to this collective effort and keep the momentum going.
“Black women have labored so much, not just this week, but throughout history (in regards to organizing),” Smith wrote to the Daily. “I felt like it was our turn to carry the baton, especially Black men, and support them like they suppport us. People forget that the Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted for 381 days; it’s about sustained effort. And that effort shouldn’t be left up to a few.”
Smith added that the group is using excerpts from Langston Hughes’ poem “I too” to serve as a reminder of the historical significance of racial prejudice in the United States.
The students spent several hours chalking and flyering after gathering earlier in the night. The message and idea was spread through word of mouth through friend and acquaintances after the initial request for help from anyone available.
LSA junior Justin Gordon pointed to his chalk phrase, “Black love is inclusive.” Looking at the dozen identities surrounding him at 2:00 am, he embraced the diverse range of individuals who were participating in the chalking. Gordon emphasized that no one is excluded in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I want people to understand and witness the demographic of who was out here right now,” Gordon said. “I’m looking at white people; I’m looking at queer, transgender, Asian, Arab, Muslim, Black — everybody’s out here.”
Gordon said that as people begin to understand that this is a human issue, globally, the movement will continue to gain momentum.
“When you have global, human issues, humans from across the globe pitch in, so that’s the importance of this,” Gordon said. “That’s what makes this so powerful and alive and so jazzy, because we’re all here, we’re all here standing together.”
“That’s at the core of it all is just supporting and loving one another on a personal level.”