Thursday, December 4, 2014

Praise for the "Black Lives Matter" Rally for Justice at the U and the Need to Discuss the Rationale for Campus "Free Speech Zones"

     Yesterday,  I attended an excellently coordinated, powerful and peaceful Rally, organized by and for students, where they were expressing their dismay regarding the atrocities committed against Black men of late, resulting in "no indictments" by Grand Juries.  This was by all accounts, a well organized, well attended event, which offered a great deal of hope, as young people rose up and united around an issue that has garnered the attention of the nation and is being viewed around the world.  As this blog is about natural hair, primarily, I was also pleased to see, a natural level of consciousness, as many of these young Black women and men wore their hair naturally in braids, afros, locks and other styles indicative of their being in touch with their roots and exemplifying that Natural IS Cool Enough, under any circumstance. Pictures below capture the essence of their event. Note that most wore Black, as a positive signification of strength and power. It was my honor to be there with them. The smiles on faces at times were due to the reunion of sorts but for certain, these students were very, very serious about this endeavor.

I arrived for the centralized rally portion of the event but my understanding is that the students marched on campus, prior to my arrival and had a "die-in" to exemplify their compassion for the men who were killed at the hands of the police and were of course, subsequently, left lying on the ground. The die-in is a symbolic gesture, albeit a powerful one.  Some of these students, who fiercely and peacefully expressed themselves, carried signs to provoke thought and emotion, in an effort to express their deep, abiding concern for Mike Brown, Eric Garner, whose "no indictment" was announced while the Rally was happening, and so many others, whose names the students called out, one by one, paying homage to them, publicly

    There was something striking about the event. Although the students marched, they were basically confined to what is known as a "Free Speech Zone" on campus, which in this case, was at a location called, The Rock, in the center of campus.  Although they did march out of the zone, in general, they were to stay in the "Free Speech Zone," which generally limits their protest reach on the campus.  I researched this, after the event, and found this quote and supporting data per the article below:

"On far too many campuses nationwide, universities unreasonably restrict students’ expressive activities to limited areas—so-called “free speech zones.” 

The article is entitled: Free Speech Zones on Campus and per the map within it, it appears that the University of Miami is the only school in Florida  with this designation.  See article here: 
Therefore, since the University of Miami is indeed on this list, it helped me to better understand, why the students had their event, for the most part, in this confined area. I think this article is worthy of a read as it argues against such a limitation and provides insight into legal cases with rulings regarding this scenario.  For example, per the article:  "In a 2012 case, a federal judge ruled that the University of Cincinnati’s free speech zone“violates the First Amendment and cannot stand.” A Website is referred to in the article, where students can visit and learn more about their particular school and their free speech rights:  http://www.thefire.org/spotlight/  I researched all of the schools where my children, my husband and I are Alumni/attending (University of Florida, LeMoyne College, Yale University, Harvard University and Columbia University) and not one of them are on the Free Speech Zone map, which I was glad to see but this did not take away my surprise about such at other universities.

Interestingly, the  fire.org website opens with the following statement:

"An overwhelming majority of colleges and universities across the country deny students the rights they are granted under the First Amendment or institutional promises. Every year, FIRE reads through the rules governing student speech at more than 400 of our nation's biggest and most prestigious universities to document the institutions that ignore students' rights—or don't tell the truth about how they've taken them away. FIRE's Spotlight database will tell you if your school is one of them."

     In closing, it seems that beyond the lives of Black people that are being lost to unnecessary violence perpetrated upon them and then lack of accountability for their deaths by those who killed them, portals are being opened to other issues that must be looked into.  I am very proud of the students at the rally that I attended yesterday.  I have taught many of these beautiful, young, Black, intelligent students that were in attendance and I could not let my day go by, yesterday, without getting into my car and driving to be with them, not only in spirit, heart and mind but with my physical presence, showing my commitment to them and this cause for justice. I felt overwhelming pride in them as they expressed clearly that a people united, will never be defeated. Natural Is Cool Enough offers praise to them, here and now, for uniting peacefully and speaking the names of those Black people who have been lost to violence by those who have been designated to serve and protect them. Freedom Must Be Sought in every venue!

No comments: