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Students, professors and allies stood with locked arms in solidarity with activist groups fighting for racial equality Thursday afternoon at the University Memorial Center, echoing the demonstrations at the University of Missouri that have rippled through the nation.
From September to last month, protests at the University of Missouri calling for the end of racism on its campus and the resignation of Chancellor Tim Wolfe made national headlines and drew widespread support and action from universities nationwide. At lunchtime on Thursday, CU students, led by the school’s Black Student Alliance, stood in solidarity with those in Columbia, Missouri still advocating for change. On Tuesday, Mizzou created an Office for Civil Rights and Title IX, designed to centralize and investigate all discrimination reports.
“We wanted to stand in solidarity with Missouri and other universities across the nation or even in Colorado,” said Paris Ferribee, co-president of BSA. “We have experienced those things and now it’s time, through demonstrations and rallies, to challenge the administration in eradicating the issues that were on campus.”
Three lines of students — a total of between 60 and 80 — stood in silent reflection for half an hour outside of the University Memorial Center. Several university employees were also present in line. When prompted to un-link arms if they were not committed to the cause, not a single person moved.
The CU administration has also been involved. BSA leaders have met with Chancellor Phillip DiStefano to present a list of concerns of African-American students and all students of color. During the rally, it was said that if students of color had particular concerns, they could email the DiStefano directly.
“We have a list of concerns that we gave to the administration today that they will review,” Ferribee said. “We’ve also had at least once-a-month meetings with the Chancellor to let him know, and he seems very passionate and ready to start changing the university.”
As the rally was winding down, Ferribee let all those present know that BSA will host a potluck dinner later this week open to all students. Events like this have provided a home away from home for students like Richardo Bambury. The freshman joined BSA when he went to a picnic it hosted at the beginning of the year. Since then, he has attended almost every meeting and been involved in the group.
“I’m really glad there is a place where there are people I can talk to, have a sense of community — someone to talk with [who] goes through the same struggles as me,” Bambury said. “I like Boulder, I really do, but there were some things that didn’t make me feel as welcome at first, so I’m really happy I joined BSA.”
Jasmine Evans, an employee of the university, has only been in Boulder for a few months after coming here from a school in Arizona, but was impressed by the collective action of students, from BSA to their allies within the faculty and the student body. After hearing what she described as “ripplings through campus about support,” she was glad that those calls manifested themselves in the form of today’s rally.
But this is about more than standing in solidarity with Missouri. As of Fall 2015, 68.9 percent of students at the University of Colorado identify as white, while only 2.2 percent are African-American. Throughout the years, students of color have alluded to instances of racism and discrimination in Boulder, discussed most recently in ESPN’s 30-For-30 film, The Gospel According To Mac. While the film’s events occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s, members of the campus today have similar concerns.
“It’s something that’s happening and is above the surface,” Evans said. “It’s happening in social settings, in classrooms — people being shut down or hearing derogatory remarks or microaggressions. It’s there.”
Ferribee, Bambury and the rest of BSA hope to change that culture at CU to create a better environment for students of color on campus. There are plans for future events, but for now, the group is continuing their outreach efforts and maintaining a dialogue with the administration.