On Thursday, October 22, during the Black Lives Matter: Boston College and America event, members of the BC community gathered in hopes of calling attention to the experiences of black persons at BC and the relationship of those experiences to those of black persons in America at large through critical conversation.
In collaboration with Daunasia Yancey, lead organizer for Black Lives Matter Boston, three graduate students and one undergraduate opened up a honest discussion detailing their personal experiences with racism both at BC and in other communities as well as the broader issues of racism and racial identity that are so prevalent in America today.
Since last school year’s die-in at Saint Mary’s Hall in which students peacefully protested following the grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson and the student led procession and protest throughout campus that ended outside BCPD headquarters, there has been anticipation as to what the next steps are in advocating for an open dialogue about racial issues at BC.
The Gavel sat down with third-year doctoral student, panelist and chair of the Graduate Students of Color Association, Craig Ford prior to the event. He gave the Gavel some insight on some of the goals for the event.
Ford finds the university’s Catholic affiliation to be a major component in the discussion of race at BC. “Drawing out the relationships and the responsibilities we have as American Catholics to deal with the specific American problem of racism in the context of our faith commitment,” Ford said, “is a major component of this conversation that I hope emerges just as strongly as perhaps other elements that are equally important.” Such as, “a relentless commitment to racial justice and bringing about structural change at BC.”
The event was split into two sections: an informal fishbowl discussion in which the audience silently observed the panelists converse, and a question and answer portion in which members in the audience posed questions regarding the topics discussed.
Rhonda Frederick, Associate Professor in the English department at BC and the mediator of the discussion guided the dialogue by asking each panelist to share their reasons for their passion in activism and racial justice.
Kimberly Ashby, doctoral student in the LSOE said, “For me, dialogue, and facilitating dialogue in activism have been my life raft in these predominately white spaces that are not made for me.” Ashby, who is also the visual co-coordinator for Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism shared, “I came to this space because I really wanted to be a social justice agent.”
“In one way, we are experiencing what it is like to be in a BC classroom but in another way it is on a more macro level, being in a country where you’re watching black and brown men being killed by police officers and having no consequences for it,” Ashby commented in response to questions regarding racism in America, “Seeing those things for us, means that we all had to experience that. It wasn’t just the families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. It was all of us.”
Akosua Opokua-Achampong, MCAS ’18, represented the undergraduate students of color’s perspective on the panel. “I had never really addressed my black identity before coming to a place like Boston College. Being forced into this space has caused me to explore different parts of myself that otherwise I would not have had the opportunity to.” In response to life as a woman of color at BC she replied, “Yes, I definitely feel alienated here, but at the same time, now I can champion for different rights. Whether it be racial or LGBTQ issues.”
As far as future action in the discussion of racism and racial identity goes, Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism has been publishing infographics that are based in observations around what is wrong at BC in regards to race and how can we work towards getting rid of them.
“EBCR is trying to raise awareness and hold the university accountable in a way that a non-registered organization can: disruptively but also in the spirit of love for this institution,” Craig Ford answered in response to questions regarding the future of the Black Lives Matter dialogue on campus. “The critique that they bring is ultimately to bring about a good end of a more harmonious student body that isn’t penetrated by racism.”