More than 100 racially diverse students gathered on Thursday, at the Garrett Hall bus stop near the amphitheater. Officially sponsored by the Black Student Alliance and the University Chapter of the NAACP, though, the gathering on Thursday was called in order to demonstrate solidarity with students at Yale, the University of Missouri and anonymous threats on Wednesday night, evidently, at Howard University.
Writing in the Washington Post on Thursday morning, Susan Svriuga explains:
An anonymous threat to Howard University circulated on social media Wednesday night, with the author saying that anyone on the historically black university’s campus after 10 a.m. Thursday would “be the first to go” and closing with: “After all, it’s not murder if they’re black. …”
“I left MU yesterday because I couldn’t put up with it anymore,” the message continues, but expresses frustration about seeing the same issues in Maryland, alleging that black people are causing trouble everywhere. “Turn on the news and it’s always the [racial slur deleted] causing trouble everywhere.
“So I’ve decided. Any [n-word] left at Howard University after 10 tomorrow will be the first to go.” Any that try to escape on the Metro will regret that, the message continues. “I’ll go out a hero knowing I made the world better. I just hope at least someone else can see it too and continue the fight…” “After all, it’s not murder if they’re black.”
Although there seems to have been no indication that this threat was ‘credible,’ the message itself is quite is troubling – whether it was written, as we are invited to believe, by a University of Missouri student, or whether it was written by someone whose purpose is to disrupt by intention, as a contrivance to be put to good effect, whether black or white. Desperate times – as some may well believe – will call for desperate measures.
Among other invitations to the gathreing was Melissa Angell’s ‘Everyone on Grounds should come to Garrett Hall Bus Stop tonight,’ writing in the Tab. Having been marketed as “a Cambridge University’s Online Tabloid,” for its launch in 2009 with a local reach, after a few years, although, still onlybeing available online, the publication reached out further, into college and university communities in the UK, which their website indicates now number 45 communities as their ‘target’ readers.
Now reaching into college and University communities in the U.S., The Tab features reports from reporters in ten of the originalthirteen colonies along the east coast of North America: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, who gained independence as a new nation, nearly 240 years ago, founded with the Declaration of Independence, written by the author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, was 33 years old, in 1776. Some years later, when he was 73, he and James Madison and James Monroe and others founded the University of Virginia. to share the opportunity for ‘destinies of high promise.’
In April of 1816, in the final stages of planning for the University, Jefferson writes:
Enlighten the people generally,
and tyranny and oppressions of body & mind
will vanish like evil spirits
at the dawn of day.
There are occasional issues devoted to print publications of The Tab, traditionally twice annually, and categorically irreverent, if not strategically disruptive, perhaps similar in tone to a publication such as the Onion, in the U.S.
During the gathering on Thursday, following a song and before inviting students to share their thoughts and experiences. there was a recitation of the poem, “If We Must Die” by Claude McKay (1889-1948). A Jamaican-American author, he was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, fans of Boardwalk Empire may recall that in season three Lester White recommens McKay’s work to his sister Maybelle White, and offers to lend her his copy of “Spaghetti and Coffee.”
Like Malcolm X, McKay was an advocate of self-determination, believing that African-Americans could do well in becoming self-reliant. In his view, that was the path to being truly free no matter what one’s circumstances entailed, whether black or while. The collection of McKay’s work,s entitled Harlem Shadows: The Poems of Claude McKay, was first released in 1922. It is available here, online. The Autobiography of Malcolm X is also available online, here, as an offering of the National Humanities Center.
The scrupulously-verified book on which the prize-winning HBO series, is based – which features brilliant portrayals of African-American characters – is entitled Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City, written by Nelson Johnson, who is now a Superior Court Judge, who was enormously curious about the history of the people and the place where he was raised.
One of the organizers of the gathering, fourth-year College pf Arts & Sciences’ student Jenné Nurse, is president of the University Chapter of the NAACP, She acknowledged that she had experienced what she believes to have been racially motivated incidents here at the University, since she arrived, and she is assured that she is not alone in this experience, believing that white privilege is not something that someone who is white themselves would have a need to know or to understand or even to be aware of at all, or to appreciate the kind of effect is might have on those who may not experience that privilege, and who consequently are not sensitive to what that experience means in terms of experiencing pain and vulnerability.
In an article appearing in The Tab on Friday, entitled A freshman’s reflection on the events at Yale and Mizzou, Osariemen Ogbemudia writes:
I was confused as to why, even in the midst of people who looked like me, I couldn’t fathom why everything that should be seamless was so incongruous. I was confused as to why I would return to my suite and feel a strange, hollow sense of abandonment. A permeating sense I don’t belong. Smiling gradually became more laborious. Even when you are hurting, you must smile. This week changed that. This week, being vulnerable was okay.
This week, black women who attend Yale University stopped the world and became vulnerable, openly. …
Time moved like a whirlwind and the internet blew up. People who seemed kind were suddenly vicious. Protests and demonstrations were almost a daily occurrence. I was amazed by Yalies, truly.
Over the course of a week, instead of these discussions being cries into a void, other races and genders listened. I was marveled people cared. People who didn’t need to care because it wasn’t their pain, shouldered our pain with us. I remember being surprised by the people who stood by my side as we yelled.
I was surprised people lined outside of the Af-Am house to see us be vulnerable. I remember being surprised when strangers held me. And I remember being surprised when I allowed myself to cry and be vulnerable.
I remember being moved when Yetunde Meroe, a student, said to me: “We did this last year in the hopes that you wouldn’t have to.”
Haden Parrish, a second-year College student at UVa was interviewed by the Cavalier Daily, as he explained his reasons for attending the gathering on Thursday:
“This is a fight for a black issue, but as a white person, as an ally, it is our duty to support that fight There was a great turnout, but it needs to be bigger. We need to be able to fill up our amphitheater …”
Also, earlier in the day, on Thursday, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American Studies held its second forum “Black Girls Matter,” in a year-long series of programs, “Engaging Race,”a series of dialogues and deliberation aimed at heightening an awareness about an ongoing challenge folks in the African-American community still face.
The reference in the heading of this article to Words, Not Swords is a nod to the 1992 publication now in its 16th printing, from Farzeneh Milant, a faculty member in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, and women’s studies here at the University, which is an interdisciplinary program in the study of gender and sexualities “with an emphasis on transnational perspectives.” It was announced in September that Prof. Milani was the 2015 winner of UVa’s Elizabeth Zintl Leadership Award, which honors a female employee for her professionalism, creativity and commitment to the University and to her field.
The Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center presents the award annually in memory of Elizabeth Zintl, an accomplished writer and journalist who served as chief of staff in the Office of the President and made significant contributions to the University.