And it was Friday, on the steps of the Colorado State University Administration Building, that hundreds of students and community members gathered to continue the same fight toward justice and change — an effort that has been opposed consistently for decades.
“We see it clearly that we’re still fighting for the same things that were being fought for then,” said Julius Philpot, lead organizer of the DreamN2020 event. “We haven’t won anything. We haven’t achieved anything that we wanted.”
Since the end of May, demonstrations have been hosted in all 50 states, but community member and Loveland, Colorado, Mayor Jacki Marsh believes that efforts need to be made beyond the marches at the start of an individual’s education.
“You have to change the minds and hearts of some of the people,” Marsh said. “That starts at a very young age. Studies show that children are racist as early as preschool. So where are they getting that from? Why do they see a different skin color as something negative?”
Celina Foote, community member and secretary for Heart and Sol in Loveland, said that the DreamN2020 solidarity march seeks to educate.
My biggest fear is that one day I’m holding this microphone, and I’m speaking about one of my sons. I don’t know if Fort Collins is going to be able to deal with that.” -Queen, community member and one of the founders of BIPOC Alliance
Foote’s hope is that individuals attend who may be aware of larger inequities but want to know more.
“Together we can talk through stories that are real in Northern Colorado,” Foote said. “Not far away because then … it doesn’t feel like it’s here.”
The event included multiple speakers, a march and a vigil. The march began at around 4 p.m., with attendees walking toward the Larimer County Justice Center and Old Town Square before coming back full circle, ending at The Oval.
“I want a visual image for the world that (demonstrations) can be done,” said CSU President Joyce McConnell. “I think there are a lot of people who are looking at demonstrations around the country and saying, ‘Oh, those are terrible things. They’re not safe.’ And I think there’s just an incredible need for people to have this opportunity, so we want to make sure that everyone understands it can be done.”
In his opening remarks, Philpot explained that he is glad the quarantine gave people an opportunity to reflect and fully realize that racism never ended.
“While I sit here saying that I’m proud to be Black, I’m not proud to be in a space or an environment or in a country where people are still judged by the color of their skin,” Philpot said.
Later, president of the University of Northern Colorado’s Black Student Union and speaker Josh Greer expressed his views on America, explaining that the foundations and values that created both this country and the KKK are “a spitting reflection that hatred is on display.”
“I hate you, America, because of the false pictures you’ve drawn,” Greer said. “The false narrative of protection and service. We are foolish to allow this system to continue on. … At one point, my people dreamt of solidarity with you, but that dream turned into a nightmare.”
A total of four women speakers were given the platform to lift their concerns, anger and frustration at the beginning of the event; Philpot said that when the first March on Washington happened, there were no Black women speaking.
“That changes today,” he said.
Attendees have stopped in Old Town Square for another demonstration pic.twitter.com/rieeCpvu8V
— Laura Studley (@laurastudley_) August 29, 2020
Melissa Edwards, associate director of the Office for Undergraduate Research and Artistry explained that there are a lot of layers of injustice currently being fought against.
“We are watching in the news, lives (being) stolen,” Edwards said. “Black lives, stolen people. Here we stand on stolen ground, and we watch it happen like it’s video games desensitizing us over and over and over again.”
She continued saying that institutions aren’t buildings, entities or companies — they are made up of people. Edwards addressed CSU students specifically, explaining that they are not powerless, but rather the exact opposite.
“Every institution you belong to, you can change,” Edwards said. “You can change the people, you can change the actions, you can change policies, you can change the practices and you can change how it’s policed. You can do it.”
After Jasmine Retland performed a song, Queen, one of the founders of the BIPOC Alliance, spoke.
“I have a dream,” Queen said. “My dream consists of my sons raising their families and owning homes and land, seeing their children go to school. If they’re not calling my phone every 15 minutes, it is hell for me. It is hell. I have five sons, three grandsons, … and I’m afraid that they have no future (with) the way this country is going right now.”
She went on to explain her fear every morning when she wakes up and has to check her phone just to see if her sons made it through the night.
“My biggest fear is that one day I’m holding this microphone, and I’m speaking about one of my sons,” she said. “I don’t know if Fort Collins is going to be able to deal with that.”
Third year biology major Jocelyn Lapham spoke about how being Black was something new. Lapham explained the struggle of being biracial, saying it was difficult to be around Black people because she felt like she didn’t fit into that community.
“I knew Black people, but their Blackness was not mine, not something I could share in, not something that I understood,” Lapham said. “Although (the Black/African American Cultural Center) is open to all students of any background, my fear of being too Black for the white students and white faculty was unmatched by my fear of not being Black enough for BAACC.”
Lapham concluded by saying racism is taught, not inherent, explaining that the question of solving a murder shouldn’t be “What did they do to deserve it?”
“Education is at the forefront of humanity, and until there’s representation in our school systems, full histories in our lesson books and empathy in our hearts, you too, no matter the color of your skin, will be questioning, ‘Am I next?’” Lapham said.
Before the attendees began to march, one last speaker took the stand. CSU fifth year and member of the #NotProudtoBe movement Janaye Matthews said that a first step is showing up, but it means almost nothing if there is no action accompanied with it.
“Solidarity is not an act of charity, it’s an act of unity,” Matthews said. “It’s an act. There’s action that has to go behind it.”
It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains. -Assata Shakur, social activist and former member of the Black Liberation Army
Matthews continued to say that the phrase ‘CSU is avowedly anti-racist’ has been used repeatedly, and yet she still doesn’t know what that means.
“When I hear anti-racism, I think of action,” Matthews said. “Using that as an adjective means nothing to me. That’s another email statement that means absolutely nothing. It’s right up there with your First Amendment rights, your principles of community, you can take that and keep it because I don’t want it.”
After some closing remarks, attendees were led down a path toward Howes Street by a group carrying a coffin, a symbol to represent the fact that no one’s life, Black or white, is promised tomorrow.
At the justice center, Queen spoke of her experience, saying she has seen things go poorly in Fort Collins; however, she said that the Black community is building rapport with Fort Collins Police Services.
She explained that she could get on her phone or go to the police department and express her concerns and needs as they relate to the community.
“They are actually taking the time to listen to our concern,” Queen said. “As we make these changes, we cannot and we will not, as a community, look down on officers that are actually trying to do the right thing.”
From there, attendees moved along Howes and turned right toward Old Town Square. There, more speeches, a musical demonstration by Retland and chanting took place.
“I wanted to bring y’all to the Square,” Philpot said. “I felt it was very important to bring y’all here because time and time again when school starts back, y’all come here and y’all celebrate like ain’t nothing else happened. Y’all have fun going to Rec Room and Bondi (Beach Bar), celebrating like we won something, like people aren’t dying.”
Philpot welcomed a speaker, Quincy Shannon, to the stage. Shannon discussed that this movement is a fight, saying the heart of the people is crucial to making a change. He called out to bystanders walking past, explaining that they are part of the problem.
“So what we’re going to do is we’re going to make sure this fight doesn’t stop today,” Shannon said. “If you want to tear the system down, you have to do it yourself, and it doesn’t mean you’re by yourself.”
Attendees chanted words from social activist Assata Shakur, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Afterward, the march route headed toward The Oval for a final vigil.
The area around the Administration Building was lit by the attendees’ flashlights as they formed a large circle around the casket that had been carried for the route’s entirety.
A poem titled “My Gemini Boy” was written and read by community member Effie Temple to honor Elijah McClain.
The event ended with a moment of silence for all the names that are known and for the ones that are not.
Editor’s Note: Jackson Braitberg and Sam Moccia contributed to the reporting for this article.
Laura Studley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @laurastudley_.
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