At 12 p.m. on Friday, thousands of Boston College students, faculty, administrative representatives, and community members participated in the Silence is STILL Violence Solidarity March that began at McElroy and followed an accessible route to Corcoran Commons.
The march, co-hosted by the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) and the anti-racism organization FACES, was organized in response to multiple racially-motivated incidents that occurred on campus earlier this week.
FACES Co-Presidents Maria Guerra and Rafael Torres and UGBC President Akosua Achampong and Vice President TT King issued a joint statement to The Gavel affirming the goals of the march:
“Students and members of the BC community will march together in solidarity, support, and liberation of our Black community on campus, and affirm the humanity of Black persons at Boston College and everywhere else. We stand with all students of color, specifically Black students, to affirm their right to live authentically both on and off this campus. With this march, we lift up the voices of those who have been silenced. We acknowledge the challenges marginalized students on campus and in society, and call upon all members of our community to join us so we can be heard. We call on our students and administration to stand with the marginalized members of our community, and to engage in the eradication of all hatred, bigotry, and violence.”
Students shared some of their thoughts with The Gavel before event began.
“Me being a person of color, this directly affects me,” said Dejah Cosby, MCAS ‘21. “So I have to take a stand for myself, because if I can’t fight for me then who else will? I’m here to make sure that everyone feels safe on campus. I want to try to prevent this event from happening again.”
“I’ve heard that something like this has happened in the past,” she continued, “so I guess being a freshman, I can try to stop that now so incoming freshmen in the next years won’t have to feel this way.”
Victoria Puscng, CSOM ‘21, explained, “I’m not an African American, but I am Asian American, so I do relate to these issues, and I just feel like if we are really a college where we’re supposedly ‘men and women for others,’ it’s important to show that rather than just saying it.”
“Sometimes speech isn’t enough,” affirmed Puscng, “and action has to be taken to show your support.”
Students held hands for a group prayer led by Father Michael Davidson, Campus Minister for Jamaica MAGIS, before the march commenced. Along the route, many students held up signs and posters with meaningful phrases.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” “Silence is violence and neutrality equals consent,” “Respect existence or expect resistance,” were among some of the banners held.
Signs also called on white students to take action, with messages including, “Privilege is when you think something is a not problem if it’s not a problem to you personally,” “Complacency is not an option,” and “White silence = white consent.”
Some signs specifically criticized BC’s administration with statements like, “BC is built on white supremacy,” “BC: you’re late to the party,” “Leahy WYA?,” while also pointing to the school’s Jesuit Catholic values with statements like, “‘For He is a God of justice’ Psalm 50:6—Black Lives Matter,” or “‘Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living it’– Pope Francis — Black Lives Matter.”
Many attendees held printed and handmade Black Lives Matter signs, some taping them to backpacks or articles of clothing. Students also wore Black Lives Matter or black-colored apparel in solidarity.
As students gathered outside of Corcoran Commons at the end of the march, UGBC President Akosua Achampong opened with a list of tangible demands for administrative action. This included encouraging nuanced discussions about diversity on campus, expanding the African & African Diaspora Studies from a minor to a full department, and hiring more faculty members of color in departments such as math, science, and CSOM.
Dean of Students Thomas Mogan spoke next, thanking everyone for coming to show their support. “[This support] is continuing the Jesuit ideal of being men and women for others,” he asserted.
Dean Mogan emphasized the role that non-AHANA students can play in making necessary change on campus, insisting that "we need all BC students, particularly white students, to stand as allies in support."
Many students kneeled on the ground while he spoke.
He concluded his statement by affirming the administration’s continuing support for students of color. “We are here for you, not just today, but all days,” he promised.
Upon his exit, students began to chant, “Where’s Leahy?”
After Dean Mogan’s statement, members of the community were invited to share their thoughts and experiences.
A male student addressed the administration saying, “The problem is you should have acted a long time ago.” He continued to discuss his sense of belonging at BC. “This campus might have not been built for me, but I am here.”
The crowd replied with a call and response of “Whose space?” followed by “Our space!”
Another female student recounted a racial remark on her first day at BC in which she was told her braided hair made her look like “a walking stereotype.”
An older man who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. reiterated the lingering issues faced both then and now. “This is what we stood up for then, this is what we are standing up for today,” he said. “Nothing has changed.”
Another student told fellow community members, “You don’t have to experience pain in order to have empathy.”
One of the final speakers called on his peers to keep taking action. “That’s my challenge for you,” he declared. “What are you going to do about it?”
Achampong closed the event by thanking everyone for coming, highlighting the need for the BC community to actively continue the movement.
“We are not done. We have barely begun anything.”
Ileana Lobkowicz and Jill Cusick contributed to this report.