Some of the chalking covering the base of the Becoming statue. Photo by Jasmyne Ray.
On the night of Nov. 24, a grand jury handed down the decision to not convict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed 18 year old youth Michael Brown last July.
The streets of Ferguson, Missouri were ravaged and torn by angry protesters after the decision was announced. According to the Washington Post, the violent riots that sparked up on the nights of Nov. 24 and 25 led to over a dozen fires and more than one hundred arrests throughout the small city.
For senior accounting major Artemis Hill, the news of the violent protests wasn’t surprising. “I’m a 22 year old [black] male. I’ve been dealing with racial, micro-aggressions, profiling–all of that for 22 years.”
He called the verdict in the Darren Wilson case a “boiling point.”
Hill and a group of students were out on campus on Dec. 1, one week after the decision was announced, chalking the brick streets and sidewalks with the messages and phrases of the most recent police killings of black teens.
“The main basis today is the racial issues,” said sophomore mass communication major Charmella Williams during a break from chalking. “Because that’s who most of these people are who are killed by the police.”
The stone base of the Becoming Statue was covered with phrases such as “Hands Up! Don’t shoot!” and “Black Lives Matter” in varying colors. Freshman social science major Sarah Boggan hoped the green phrases she’d written could break people’s hearts and potentially raise awareness of the events.
Boggan said that it felt great to express her feelings about the issues and that she had wanted to go out and “do something” ever since the verdict was handed down. She said she would absolutely not have had the chance to demonstrate in her small town.
“I grew up in a very Christian, conservative town. I know that most of the people where I live are on the side of Darren Wilson, which disgusts me,” she said.
Across Main Quad, sophomore art major Alexandra Kulick and freshman interdisciplinary studies major Morgan Pennington were writing similar messages on the brick gates outside of Napier Hall.
Kulick organized the event by creating a Facebook page a few hours after the news of the verdict. Her friends and peers from various social justice clubs agreed to join which resulted in an estimated 15-20 volunteers on Dec. 1. While the group did not get proper permission from the university to chalk the campus, their passion and conviction for the issues urged them to press on.
Kulick called the events in Ferguson “a huge atrocity” and hoped the group’s efforts would keep the events fresh in the minds of students.
Pennington agreed as she wrote “R.I.P. Mike Brown” on the bricks. “I feel like a lot of people aren’t recognizing that someone’s life was lost and they’re not empathizing enough,” she said of the small sentence’s hopeful effect on campus.
Kulick hopes to stage more social justice events in the future with her like minded peers. Though she said all of the human rights organizations will continue to work together, she said there should be more outside help.
“It’s not really one club’s responsibility, it’s kind of everybody’s responsibility,” she said.