#MillionStudentMarch (11-12-15)

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Photo from Philly.com

Black Lives Matter became a little stronger on November 12, 2015, which should be remembered in the history books as the day the college student movement began working with the new civil rights movement – BLM – and the new labor movement – 15 Now. BLM now has the backing of two of the most historically radical sectors in American society: the students and the rank-and-file working class.

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The #MillionStudentMarch gathered at City Hall in Philadelphia.  I arrived at City Hall with about 15 protesters present from Penn’s Million Student March, who focused on economic inequality.  But ten minutes later we were joined by a massive wave of students part of Penn’s student group, Students Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL). SOUL focused on the racial issues exploding on the campuses of Yale University and University of Missouri. Students chanted: “This is what democracy looks like!” some chanted. “Who are we? We are Yale! Who are we? We are Mizzou!”  The group SOUL asked University City schools to “create and enforce a comprehensive and mandatory racial awareness curriculum, and increase the number of courses centered around community organization and social justice,” as well as adopt zero-tolerance policies for alleged “bigotry perpetrated by Greek organizations.”  They also demanded black faculty and staff reach 10 percent, “adopting programs aimed at recruiting and retaining students of color, implementing sensitivity training for employees at Penn’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), hiring more CAPS staff of color, and establishing a social justice center that ‘provides resources for organizing students.'” (philly.com)

I estimated about 400 persons protested that day from Penn, Drexel and Temple University. The rally was filled with young white students, many of whom I could tell never been to a protest before.  The good side of this was that the young students were energetic and excited to be taking part in a movement that was bigger than themselves as individuals.  I could hear the helicopters flying above us in the sky.  I found it curious that there were helicopters for a relatively small rally.  The last time I remembered seeing multiple helicopters in the sky was for the Freddie Gray protest in April 2015, when nearly 2,000 demonstrators gathered after the Baltimore riots.  So it was strange to see helicopters now, but I figured white middle-class students had the political power and money to receive such press, not to mention the #MillionStudentMarch took place nationally that day in as many as 120 actions, according to U.S. Uncut.

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But at the same time it had some negative aspects.  Even though it was the Million Student March, the rally seemed to have been co-hosted by 15 NOW and certain BLM groups.  BLM college students arrived that day representing the new slogan, #BlackonCampus.  This new hashtag represented the subtle racism black students felt on campus, known popularly as micro-aggression, meaning when blacks are insulted either intentionally or unintentionally by fellow white students.  But just like SNCC before them, BLM protesters didn’t sugar-coat the new experience for the white students.  BLM students and BLM members of Philly Coalition for REAL Justice let white students know where they stood in this fight.  When a white student apparently asked to speak on stage that day, no doubt eager to speak at his first protest, he was shouted down by a leading female members of Coalition for REAL Justice.  She yelled at the crowd that local black people in the community were sick and tired of being pushed around by white students and Temple University in general.  She gave a moving speech about the issues of race at the time, which didn’t stop all the white people from applauding her moving words.  The next speaker was a black male, who eased the situation by saying the fight was beyond race, and that all people needed to work together.

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But Philly wasn’t alone in experiencing micro-aggression.  As thousands marched out of campuses that day, black students felt particularly tied with the University of Missouri.  The Chicago Tribune wrote that “black students spoke of a subtle and pervasive brand of racism that doesn’t make headlines but can nevertheless have a corrosive effect,” the article read, before defining micro-aggression.  Newspapers across the country said black students felt discriminated against by their white counterparts in subtle but meaningful ways, such as at Virginia Commonwealth University , Chicago’s Loyola University and West Virginia University.  “It’s more the daily microaggressions than the large situations,” said Akosua Opokua-Achampong, a sophomore at Boston College. “Those also hurt.”When Opokua-Achampong tells other students that she’s from New Jersey, some ask where she’s really from. “When you’re not white, you can’t just be American,” she said. (She was born in the U.S. to parents from Ghana.)

Janay Williams, a senior at the University of California Los Angeles, said she is the only black person in her biology class and is routinely among the last picked for group assignments. “Students don’t want to be in the same group as you with a group project, because they’re afraid you’re not going to do your share,” she said.  Roc from West Virginia added that just being on campus can be a day-to-day struggle.”But instead of me saying that I’ll transfer where I feel more comfortable, I’d rather stick it out here,” she said. “I’m not here for how people look at me; I’m here for my education.”

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Chicago Tribune wrote that racism was now front and center with BLM emerging: “Stories like that aren’t new, students said. But many said the revolt at Missouri — and the Black Lives Matter movement that was set in motion by the shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Missouri — have finally driven them to talk about it and confront it.” Black students shared their experiences of micro-aggression online using the hashtag, #BlackonCampus.  Holloway, the Virginia Commonwealth student, said she used to try to ignore subtler instances of racism. But she has decided not to keep quiet anymore.”It’s hard when it’s something you see every day,” she said. “It’s exhausting. It’s fatiguing and, you know, we’re frustrated.”

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The day of the rally, the Dean of Claremont McKenna College resigned, after students protested an email she sent to a Latina student suggesting that students of color didn’t fit the “CMC mold.”  Just the day before, “students protested at the college saying they wanted more programs for students of color as well as LGBT, disabled and low-income students,” reported laist.com. A group of about 30 students of color provided a list of suggestions the school could take to make things more inclusive for students of color in April, but student Denys Reyes told KPCC that little had been done. “These ideas included a resource center for students of color, more diversity among faculty and staff, mentoring programs, mandatory racial sensitivity training for professors and funding for multicultural clubs.”Denys Reyes said, “The institution has only now started to respond to our efforts because it’s a PR crisis.”

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Students all over continued to present their administrators with demands, following the actions of Missouri once again. Among other things, the students called for greater diversity on the faculty, more spending on scholarships for minorities, more instruction on tolerance and sensitivity, and more resources such as cultural centers. University administrators responded by hosting diversity forums or meeting to hear demands. Students at some schools, such as the University of Michigan, said the Missouri case has emboldened them to take a harder stance against administrators if they don’t keep their promises.

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http://6abc.com/news/philly-students-hit-the-streets-for-million-student-march/1081368/  (6 abc)

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2015/11/12/protest-center-city-philadelphia/  (cbs)

http://articles.philly.com/2015-11-14/news/68253919_1_university-city-penn-student-group-yale-university  (philly.com)

https://www.rt.com/usa/321744-million-student-march-updates/  (national protests all over)

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-black-college-students-racism-20151112-story.html  (chicago tribune)

http://laist.com/2015/11/12/claremont_spellman_resignation.php  (laist.com)

http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2015/11/nj_and_philly_college_students_protest_for_tuition.html  (nj.com)

http://usuncut.com/resistance/live-updates-students-take-over-us-campuses-demanding-free-college/   (US uncut. each rally)

http://news.yahoo.com/million-student-march-reaches-philadelphia-214747845.html  (yahoo)

http://www.demotix.com/news/9046392/million-student-march-philadelphia#media-9046304   (demotix)

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