Campus Activism During Black History Month
Reported by Jen Wright
George Fox University’s (GFU) Black Student Union (BSU) is celebrating Black History Month by inviting students to have their own conversations about social issues regarding race and discrimination.
The BSU put up posters on the canyon bridge on Feb. 1 in remembrance of black individuals lost to police brutality, and posters in the quad in honor of black individuals’ achievements.
The posters have a picture of the individual, a short biography, and a “sunrise” and “sunset” date to mark their birth and death.
Jessica Coyne, BSU president, said the biographies exist to “humanize the de-humanized,” and cause students to see them as real people.
“I think the whole idea of police brutality has become something that’s politicized,” said Coyne. “A lot of times people don’t really take the time to think of the person and their story. Even in the media it’s just ‘oh, black man killed by cop;’ it’s never a name, or their story, or where they came from.”
Coyne hopes the posters will prompt more students to be active in the conversation.
“I really struggle with the fact that black people being killed by police is something that I grieve and something that is part of my lived experience, and it’s my lived experience to always wonder ‘who’s going to be next; is it going be my dad, is it going to be my brother; my uncle’,” said Coyne.
Coyne’s perspective is one she hopes students will be able to come to understand.
“The fact that this isn’t a shared experience, and the fact that I feel like the majority of campus isn’t aware that this is something that the black community on campus struggles with is a problem for me,” said Coyne.
Students on campus need to support each other and be more active in including other people and issues in the conversation, said Coyne.
“To be a Christian campus and say ‘let’s walk alongside each other and share each other’s burdens and support one another,’ that’s an area that I need support and it’s lacking,” said Coyne.
Increasing student awareness of the existence of these issues is one of the BSU’s goal. Coyne wants the posters to prompt students to look the names up and learn about their stories.
“I think, instead of people of color constantly initiating it, I’d like to see more white students initiating it,” said Coyne. “I think there’s this kind of thought process of ‘oh, why does it always have to be about race,’ or ‘why do you always have to bring up your background or your experiences.’”
For a healthy community, communication needs to happen, and Coyne wants all students to know that they can stand up and start talking about it.
GFU is hosting a panel on Feb. 26 to discuss police brutality, and all students are invited to participate.