Today I write as a first-year Oberlin student. More importantly, today I write as a black male student working to fully exist on this campus. When I woke up this morning, I carried on with my usual morning routine. I walked to my first morning class, and sat through the discussion as usual. As that commenced, I headed out towards my second class of the day. Strolling to Severance, I came upon a group of people in Wilder Bowl chanting "Back Up. Back Up. We want freedom, freedom. All these racist institutions we don't need 'em, need 'em." I drew closer to this group and realized exactly what it was.
I didn't make it to class.
Instead, I chose to go actively engage in the liberation of my people.
As I entered the group, surrounded by mainly Black and brown, but some white faces, I heard the leaders talk about the way Oberlin oppresses Black and brown bodies. I heard the sincere cries of other students who looked like me, detailing the pain and frustration they experienced for simply trying to exist on this campus. The group continued to march. We headed towards King, picking up people on the way. Entering the building and beginning to chant "Black Lives Matter," we were immediately met by blank and angered faces. Some students looked at us in disgust. Others chose to join us. The group climbed floor to floor, eventually reaching the top.
On the top floor, two contrasting scenarios occurred, both of which I will never forget. One professor closed his door, visibly angered by the marching students, and began to yell. Another professor saw the protestors, grabbed her things, and invited her whole class to join the march.
The group proceeded to move from King to Peters, Peters to Cox, and Cox to the Science Center. The march took a halt here. At this point the group had grown remarkably in size. Stopping in the atrium, black students took to the center and proceeded to voice our concerns—many of those concerns being around the science center. Students told of how they didn't feel respected, acknowledged, or important to science faculty as Black students. One student brought light to the fact that there was a Black Faculty Teach In, in Dye, and how only Black science faculty attended and regularly attend events acknowledging the struggles that come with being a person of color and navigating predominantly white spaces on this campus. Afterwards, another student addressed the complicity of white students in systematic racism at Oberlin and how it is their responsibility to dismantle it.
The group moved to the front of Wilder, where the protest culminated with sentiments of love, joy, dancing, hopefulness, and drive.
I'm left with so many thoughts, so many unknown feelings, and so many hopes for the future.
I know many people were angry at their classes being disrupted, and their study time wasn't as peaceful as they would have liked it to be. To this I question, is your study time more important than the liberation of black people on this campus? Is your equation more important than the life of the (less than likely) Black person sitting next to you?
In any regard, education extends outside of the classroom, and in an acute sense of irony, the class I missed today was my Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies course. Unapologetically, I realize I learned more today than I could have learned in any class. This isn't the end.
"Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them." - Assata Shakur