The cries of passionate students rang out above the rush of traffic on Friday night as a demonstration was held in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The demonstration, planned by Malcolm Stovall with the help of Claire Frederick and Sarah Hofkamp, all seniors, and Marco Fraticelli, a junior, was spurred by the discussions and actions surrounding NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem, as well as the recent deaths of two black men, Terrence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, at the hands of police.
The Black Lives Matter movement is an international campaign and was founded by three black women: Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza. The movement protests against police brutality as well as issues like racial profiling and racial inequality.
“I didn’t want the momentum of the conversation to digress,” said Stovall “and I felt like this was a good way to keep this perspective and keep this framework of national discourse fresh in our minds. It was finally out in the open and the public was discussing it.”
Stovall, Fraticelli, Hofkamp and Frederick reached out to Goshen College clubs such as LSU, BSU, EcoPAX, Hymn Club, GSWA and others to help spread awareness of the event. Stovall described the demonstration as “a way for clubs to show their explicit solidarity.”
During a speech Stovall made early in the demonstration, he gave students an opportunity to shout out names of clubs that were represented at the protest. A shout of “Goshen city council!” surprised many.
Adam Scharf, a Goshen city councilman, said he overheard Stovall’s speech while walking downtown and couldn’t help stopping to listen. The councilman acknowledged police brutality as an issue that is causing tension across the nation.
“As the [presidential] election approaches, it’s a divisive issue,” said Scharf. He then commented on presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “racist undertones.”
“[Trump] feeds into the problems of racism,” the councilman said.
Stovall’s speech focused on the purpose behind the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as statistics and a brief overview of the history of racism in the city of Goshen, among other things.
Stovall was mobbed by the crowd as each participant tried to get closer to hear over the sound of traffic. Students snapped their fingers in affirmation of Stovall’s statements.
“We are here for a reason,” Stovall said to the crowd of students, faculty and staff, and community members. “That reason is to declare that black life in any shape, gender, identity, and form matters. Black Lives Matter is not just about police brutality; it is about systemic injustice and racism. We bring to life perspectives that have been [disregarded] in the color-blind and post-racial rhetoric and ideology that we all have been indoctrinated from the beginning of our schooling.”
Felipe Merino, local attorney and candidate for Goshen’s school board, also participated in the demonstration. With bullhorn in hand, Merino encouraged students and community members to register to vote.
“How many of you want to see change?” Merino yelled to the students.
He was met with passionate cheers.
“The only way that can happen is if your voice is heard in the election,” he said.
Stovall said he greatly appreciated Merino’s contribution to the demonstration. Throughout the protest, students crossed the street over to Merino’s law firm and registered to vote with the help of Merino and others.
For Rachael Klink, a first-year, the BLM demonstration was her first protest.
“I think it’s really important that Goshen College as a whole demonstrates how black lives matter,” said Klink. “It’s easy to see the violence and racism that is going on, so I think it’s important to say that we’re not okay with it in a public manner.”
Klink said she hopes that the demonstration leads to conversations between people of color and allies.
“It was nice to be surrounded by people who [I] know support [me],” she said.
Stovall also wants conversation to come about as a result of this.
“I hope this demonstration gave [the participants] a framework of how to have discourse and dialogue on these issues in their own personal lives,” he said, “because there’s not going to be a demonstration at their dinner table or in their house.”
Klink hopes that people truly understand what it means to stand behind Black Lives Matter.
“A lot of people think that you if stand with Black Lives Matter then you only think black lives matter and that’s not really what it is,” said Klink. “When we say black lives matter, I think what people really mean [is that] black lives matter too, and I think that’s really important. Of course all lives do indeed matter, but that’s not what’s represented in society.”