NAACP holds Diag speakout about police shootings and EMU graffiti
About 150 students gathered on the Diag Wednesday night for a speakout held in response to recent incidents of police brutality and racism both across the nation and locally.
The event was hosted by the University of Michigan chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Epsilon Chapter.
The speak out, emceed by Christopher McClendon of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternty, Inc., a Ross senior, began with a crowd reprisal of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” referred to by event organizers as the Black national anthem.
“In this past week, we have witnessed on our campus, within this community, and in the country, that racism is alive and well,” McClendon said. “This isn’t our first one, and it won’t be our last one.”
Organizers said they planned the speakout to commemorate the fatal shootings of three black males and recent incidents of racism at Eastern Michigan University, located in Ypsilanti.
The event specifically aimed to remember 40-year old Terrence Crutcher in Tulsa and 43-year old Keith Lamont Scott, who were killed by police officers this week, as well as the death of 13-year old Tyree King, who was shot by police earlier this month.
“The purpose of The Speak Out is to uplift the community overall,” the NAACP wrote in an earlier email statement to the Daily.
Speakers also spoke on an incident at EMU early Tuesday morning, when staff members discovered racial slurs and the letters “KKK” painted on buildings. Later that day, more than 150 protesters marched to the home of EMU president James Smith, where he delivered a statement with other campus officials, according to the Detroit Free Press. EMU students present at the speakout claimed more graffiti was discovered Wednesday morning as well.
The University’s Black Student Union tweeted videos of its members standing alongside other community members at the protest Tuesday at EMU, and much of Wednesday night’s remarks centered around solidarity with Black students at EMU.
RIGHT NOW: Members of our BSU Eboard join Eastern Michigan University's black community in protesting racist graffiti. pic.twitter.com/75fjueYiov
— #BBUM (@THEBSU) September 20, 2016
RIGHT NOW: members of our BSU join Eastern Michigan Michigan University to protest racist graffiti. "No Justice, No Peace!" pic.twitter.com/6qyPsDNdDG
— #BBUM (@THEBSU) September 20, 2016
Darius Anthony, president of the NAACP chapter at EMU, addressed the crowd about the importance of protest on both campuses.
“We shut shit down, that’s what we do,” Anthony said, referring to a rally Tuesday that blocked traffic on Washtenaw Avenue.
During the speakout, Kyla Fordham, another member of the EMU NAACP, applauded University students for demonstrations on UM’s campus, and urged them to band together with EMU students.
“We have questions...how they always got security cameras to give us traffic tickets, but not to figure out who did that graffiti?” she said. “But we’ll encourage one another because y’all are right next door to us. It doesn’t take an organization to change things, it starts in your classrooms and it starts with yourselves.”
Speakers also discussed issues surrounding diversity at the University at large, including campus climate and resources afforded to Black students. In recounting racially insensitive remarks made by a professor earlier this week, LSA senior Dorian Ballard highlighted the current historically low enrollment of Black students at the University.
“We’re only 4 percent here, but we’re the best 4 percent,” she said.
Black Student Union speaker Diego Zimmerman, a Music, Theater & Dance junior, reflected on the recurring nature of fatal shootings of African-Americans at the hands of police officers. Above all, Zimmerman stressed, the Black community needs self-love.
“What if I’m next?” he asked. “When I see you, with your melanin and natural hair...I am extremely happy. When someone tries to take our lives away from us without out permission, I am extremely angry. But...I love you and that anything you need, we are here for you.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the speaker at this event.