Over 100 students rallied in front of the Rock on Tuesday afternoon as part of a protest organized by Black Northwestern students against increased policing on campus and in the Black House.
The rally began with a land acknowledgment by two students from the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance (NAISA), who spoke of the ongoing injustices that Indigenous and Black people both face in the United States.
The event’s co-organizers then took turns speaking, beginning with a minute of silence observed in commemoration of the loss of Jacquis Irby, the 18-year old that died in the Clark Street Beach shooting that prompted the increased policing on campus.
The students then announced the six demands they listed in a petition circulating social media, which has amassed over 400 signatures as of the writing of this article. Demands include a meeting with President Schill by April 24, increased funding of Black student organizations and an immediate end to the policing of Black student spaces. Students also requested quarterly meetings between Multicultural Student Affairs staff and the Association of Black Leaders and a review of the University’s plans in response to the near end of affirmative action.
SESP second-year Jackson Gordwin is a co-organizer of the event. He highlighted the increased policing around the Black House, which makes students feel unsafe.
“It’s almost like the Black House is under a microscope these days which is really unfortunate given the history of police in Black lives,” he said. "We actually enjoy the Black House having more freedom so that students feel more comfortable in those spaces.”
Among the 1968 Bursar Takeover demands that have still not been met are an acknowledgment of the institutional racism present in the University, increased scholarships for Black students to decrease financial strain, a residential college for Black students and the hiring of a Black counselor for Black students, according to the petition released prior to the rally.
“I’m excited for an administrative response from multiple levels because we need MSA to respond and we also need our higher-ups to respond,” Communication third-year Jordan Muhammad said.
The rally concluded with a poem written and spoken by first-year Medill student, Atarah Israel, who wrote the poem in 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd. Israel believes that the poem still resonates today.
“I was just grieving, I was angry, I was hurt,” Israel said. “I was trying to make sense of the world around me and I feel like those same feelings still persist today because we’re dealing with the same issues.”
After the conclusion of the rally, the Rock was painted by attendees who stayed behind. Many also stayed to show support for the cause, strengthening the community bonds that formed among those who attended.
“I was really hopeful and excited to see all these Black students and allies coming out here in solidarity. It was very encouraging,” SESP second-year Michaiah Ligon said.
In Gordwin’s view, University policies are compromising Black students' safety. He said the rally is a chance for Black students to unite and draw attention to these unmet needs with community support.
“I expect Black students to feel safer. I expect them to be safer if they’re on campus, and I expect their education experience to be better,” he said.
*Atarah Israel has written for North by Northwestern Magazine in the past.