“I know many of you probably have a burning nugget in the pit of your stomach right now,” said Jessica Fish, of the Race and Ethnic Studies department at the University of New Hampshire. She spoke to a crowd of nearly 140, comprised of students, faculty and community members in MUB Theater I on Tuesday afternoon. The topic on the table: Ferguson.
The ‘UNH Talks Ferguson’ event gave the university community a chance to sit down, be honest and talk truth. A powerpoint began the discussion, outlining the timeline of Michael Brown’s death, the grand jury decision and protests taking place soon after.
Faces of other blacks who were killed by police this year plastered the screen. One man was holding a BB gun in Walmart Store when he was shot. Another was a schizophrenic woman who was shoved to the pavement. And most recently, the grand jury decision about the death of Eric Garner, as man in New York who was killed by chokehold. All blacks, killed by law enforcement, in which no charges were filed.
When entering the presentation, each attendee was given a number, which divided the larger group into smaller, conversational sectors. Each group, consisting of about ten people, had a facilitator that led the conversation. Group members were encouraged to share their opinions and experiences, respectfully and mindfully.
Robert Richard-Snipes was especially passionate about the presentation. As co-director of the Diversity Support Coalition and a Diversity Ambassador for the admission office, Snipes was part of the group that organized the discussion, as well as the protest that took place in front of Thompson Hall just after the Ferguson grand jury decision.
“I believe this event was a bold step by the university to build community and solidarity in a time when many communities feel vulnerable,” Snipes said. “The ability to get people from multiple faucets of the UNH community together and be able to share experiences, frustrations, and questions in a safe environment where people’s opinions are valued and respected is crucial when trying to have conversations about identities that people feel very strongly about.”
Snipes felt that the presentation got the ‘conversation started’ and was the beginning of a much-needed social movement at UNH.
After attending the ‘UNH Talks Ferguson’ event, I realized that I’ve remained silent on social media (and even in my every day life) about this momentous issue; an issue that makes me question the effectiveness, honesty and morale of our system. As a journalist, advocate and a human being, I felt it was time to speak.
Racism is real. It is alive and rampant in society today. If we want to keep it simple- blacks are being killed by American law enforcement. But this isn’t just a BLACK issue; this is a PEOPLE responsibility. In fact, it’s a global, HUMANITY issue. We are the carriers of ideas and no matter our race, we are responsible for these ideas.
I can’t help but feel saddened, infuriated and confused all at the same time. Our society has digressed. Just as President Obama said in his speech following the grand jury decision, “America is not the #1 country in the world right now.”
As someone mentioned at the event, we must start a wave. You, as an ally and bystander, hold the responsibility. Stand up to oppression; stand up to violations of humanity. You may be one person but YOU hold the power. Every movement, every change in the universe has begun with a small group of passionate people, dedicated to a cause. The future of our society is in your hands; don’t kid yourself that it’s not. The change starts within you, and it must start now. We simply cannot wait any longer to act. We cannot let injustice continue to reign.