Over 100 students came together on Wednesday night for an open group meeting called “#BlackLivesMatter / Tufts Community Town Hall Meeting: Mobilizing for #IndictAmerica & Ferguson Aftermath,” in Alumnae Lounge.
The meeting was part of a series of actions this week, organized by a group of students under the name Indict Tufts, to spotlight and fight racial oppression in the wake of the past week’s non-indictment of two white police officers for killing unarmed black men. These events have included protests in Carmichael and Dewick-MacPhie dining halls on Monday, where students “indicted” Tufts for its complicity in racism, and readings of eulogies occurring every 28 hours until Dec. 10, to represent the statistic that a black person is killed by law enforcement or vigilantes every 28 hours, according to a 2013 report.
“Indict Tufts is a loose working group [of] people that have and have not been involved in anti-racist work, some first-years, some black people, [people of color] and white people as well,” Jonathan Jacob Moore, one of the students involved in the organizing, said. “I would describe it as grassroots and very natural.”
According to the event description, the town hall’s goals were to “discuss next steps for mobilizing Tufts,” and “interrogate anti-blackness on campus and nationwide.”
Students shared reactions to the Monday, Nov. 24 decision by a Missouri grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man, in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 9. Participants also discussed a Staten Island grand jury’s decision earlier that day not to indict New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner from a chokehold, a tactic that is banned by the New York Police Department. Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that the Justice Department will launch a civil rights investigation into the Garner case.
Students sat on the floor in a large circle around the room, and Amber Rose Johnson, a senior, began the meeting with a call to recognize “genocide against black bodies.”
Johnson poured libations as a form of honoring the space and calling in ancestors. Students, holding hands, then observed a four-and-a-half minute moment of silence to recognize the four-and-a-half hours Brown’s body lay in the streets of Ferguson after he was killed.
Johnson said that the ultimate goal of the movement is to bring an end to global racial oppression and white supremacy, noting that “we are in a war.”
“This is about moving forward,” Johnson said. “We have to move forward.”
Moore, a sophomore, then read a poem aloud to the students gathered.
Johnson underscored the need to organize, remember the lives lost to policy brutality and channel feelings into action, noting the need to “organize to make sure that Tufts is disrupted” and “make sure that Tufts is touched by rage.”
The meeting then opened up for students to share their comments and reactions.
In response to a question by a student about what the goals of Indict Tufts are, Johnson explained that there is not a specific list of demands to which Tufts can answer, but instead students are rallying behind bringing issues such as global black genocide, police brutality and oppression to the forefront. Johnson added that the organizing at Tufts is just a small part of a global movement, and that her personal goal is the end of white supremacy.
Students then broke into smaller groups based on their racial locations to think about their individual perspectives and discuss the role their group can play in mobilizing.
Moore felt that the meeting was a productive and positive space overall.
“People are remaining mobilized and are energized in a really wonderful way,” he said.
The working group of white students is in the beginning stages of planning a program, to be run by white students for white students, on how to talk to friends and family about the recent non-indictments and anti-blackness. The event is tentatively planned to take place before the end of the semester.
Students within Indict Tufts, including Johnson and Moore as well as sophomore Anissa Waterhouse and junior Wayne Yeh, are also planning a march from campus to Davis Square today at 4:30 p.m. The march will start at the lower patio of Mayer Campus Center and end in Davis Square.