At campus rally, black student groups call for safe and inclusive campus

Black student groups called for University of Oregon administration to meet 12 demands to increase inclusivity for African-American students during a rally at the EMU Amphitheater at 2 p.m. Friday.

The Black Women of Achievement, Black Student Union, Black Law Students Association, Black Student Task Force and Black Male Alliance urged the administration to implement the remaining seven Black Student Task Force demands sent to Johnson Hall after the 2015 University of Missouri protests.

Black student group members read the unmet demands in front of a 200-person audience. These remaining demands include starting a black studies department, a scholarship program for black students, an advisory board of underrepresented minority groups to assist in hiring faculty of color and a black cultural center. Also, the students called for the administration to meet demands to change the names of all KKK-related buildings on campus, hire a black adviser/retention specialist and publicize initiatives to accept and retain black students and keep them safe.

“I stand in solidarity with my black brothers and sisters until this demand is met,” said a student group leader after each demand was read.

Along with students, administrators and Portland community members spoke on concerns surrounding the two recent blackface incidents at UO: Law professor Nancy Shurtz wore blackface at a Halloween party she hosted, and three Eugenian high school students who donned the controversial makeup on campus last Wednesday.

UO President Michael Schill, who listened from the front row of the amphitheater throughout the rally before speaking, condemned the actions.

“In 2016, there can be no excuse for the behavior of that faculty member and those young intruders. Blackface is a slur. In many ways, it is as damaging as the N-word,” Schill said. “It is an insult to everybody on this campus, period.”

Two audience members interrupted his speech by shouting for him to meet all the Black Student Task Force demands, but Schill did not mention the demands. The BSTF set a Fall 2016 deadline on five of the seven unmet demands mentioned at the rally.

Herman Greene, a Portland pastor and parent of a Black Student Union leader, said students have the responsibility to call out such instances when it occurs “within their circle of influences.”

“Black America can’t do this by themselves, although we will keep fighting. Black America needs white America; it needs Asian America; it needs our Latino America; it needs everybody within America to stand with and for us,” Greene said. “What [racists] don’t want is what we are doing right now: we are standing, unified, and we’re saying, ‘If it hurts one, it hurts me.'”

UO junior August Jefferson read a message from his original spoken word poem. 

“I don’t know if equality is just an illusion thrown in front of the abuse to keep the system moving, but my own solution predates all the confusion about the election, Jim Crowe, slavery and time itself — that one thing is love. I am just a broke college student looking out for my next meal, but if you need me, as your friend, as your brother, as your prophet, as your leader, I can be that — just because this is reality, doesn’t mean this can’t be where your dream’s at.”

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Andrew Field

Andrew Field

Former Japan Times intern. Daily Emerald reporter and FishDuck editor. Tokyo-Singapore-Houston-Eugene, but Oregonian forever. West Ham United and Portland Timbers fan.

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