October 28, 2020

Social movements on the rise: Students speak out for justice

Breonna Taylor was honored by students at a vigil on Sept. 27. Junior and president of the Association for African American Collegians Savanna Hulbert said this vigil was a way to help Black students cope with the killing of Breonna Taylor.

Junior Savanna Hulbert crouched down to light a candle in Blackburn Park on Sept. 27. Hulbert felt called to honor Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed in a raid on her apartment.

On March 13, police officers in Louisville, Kentucky shot and killed  Taylor, a Black healthcare worker, during a botched raid on her apartment. On Sept. 23, the grand jury charged one of the three policemen involved with three counts of wanton endangerment over shooting into neighboring apartments, but not for killing Taylor.

This decision and the Black Lives Matter movement have impacted students at Webster University. Hulbert is president of the Association for African American Collegians (AAAC). The organization is devoted to diversity, community service, and unity through social events and social awareness. Hulbert organized the Sept. 27 vigil to help students cope with the unjust killing of Taylor.

“My organization had to ask ourselves how we can bring all of the Black students on campus together and talk about how they’re feeling about the situation. We wanted to get them connected to each other,” Hulbert said.

Hulbert said 30 students of all different races came to the vigil; Julian Z. Schuster, the president of Webster University, also attended and said the Breonna Taylor vigil was the first ever at Webster.

The university promotes diversity and inclusion as its core values. Over the summer, Webster put up a number of signs saying, “Webster University stands for racial equality and justice. Black Lives Matter!”

The signs were later stolen but were replaced shortly after they were reported missing.

Hulbert expressed frustration with the university for not reaching out to Black students after the signs were stolen.

Balisha Thomas, one of several speakers at the Breonna Taylor vigil, addresses the group at Blackburn Park. Photo by Jasmine Willis.

“Webster hasn’t asked us how we felt while there’s been harassment and death threats and people taking Black Lives Matter signs down in Webster Groves,” Hulbert said.

Sophomore Micah Barnes, however, feels welcomed by the university.

“I feel like I am supported as a Black woman. I haven’t really experienced any backlash at the university, but I know that if I did, I have the resources to talk to someone,” Barnes said.

“Social Movements & The Impact of Technologies” and “Explore U” are two courses taught by Professor Terri Reilly. The classes discuss current topics everyday, and the Breonna Taylor decision created much debate.

Reilly focuses on helping her students find their true selves.

“We begin with the self-knowledge theme, and that is, ‘Who do you think you are?’ Because depending on who we are with, we have different identities,” Reilly said.

Reilly emphasizes to her students the importance of using their voice while staying true to themselves and backing up their voice with actions.

“You don’t have to be on the front line of a protest to have your voice heard. I tell them to go out and vote and why it is critical they go out and vote,” Reilly said.

Jason Hester is taking Professor Reilly’s “Explore U” course. He has gone to protests for the Black Lives Matter movement. Hester attended one protest that turned violent.

“The police came in shooting tear gas, and people started throwing bricks. I feel like the violence won’t stop until something changes in the world,” Hester said.

Hester saw the issues society faces firsthand; these issues also cause problems in student’s lives, such as freshman Trinity Locke.

Locke grew up in a conservative family. She assumed her family’s beliefs were right because that’s how she was raised. As she grew up and became more politically aware, her beliefs became more moderate, leaning left.

“It doesn’t cause too much tension because [my family] is informed and typically respectable,” Locke said.

Although there was no strain in Locke’s familial relationships, she faced some issues with her peers.

“A girl I thought was a good friend of mine started budding me out of the friendship because I was ‘too political’ which I was shocked about because I was well-intentioned,” Locke said.

Hester struggles in his friendships when it comes to voting. His friends disagree with him when it comes to the responsibility Reilly has instilled in him.

“Some of my friends say they don’t want to vote, and I tell them if you don’t vote, you don’t get to voice your opinion or say how you feel, and that’s the most important part of our democracy,”  Hester said.

 

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