By Anna Hansen
Edgewood College community members gathered along Monroe Street June 11 in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Organizers included Abby Briseño, Yahaira Figueroa, Jahdai Guerrero, Vivi Velasquez, and faculty members Geoff Adelsberg, Ashley Byock, Lisa King, Susan Pastor, Ferrinne Spector, and Donna Vukelich-Selva.
Edgewood student Sasha Shannon said what has happened in the wake of George Floyd’s killing offers an opportunity for change. “For Edgewood and Edgewood faculty, staff and students and even community members just to come together says we hear the Black community, and that’s all we want,” said Shannon. “We want to be heard. So, I think that that’s a step in the right direction.”
Edgewood’s new president Andrew Manion spoke with OTE at the protest. “There are two diseases that we’re fighting right now,” said Manion. “One of them is COVID-19, and it’s relatively new, the other is racism and its centuries old. We, as a college stand for justice and compassion and community, and we have to do everything we can to eradicate racism.”
Manion also said the protest was the first of “many, many things” that will be done during his presidency to improve campus culture as well as wider culture.
“The expression that i heard recently is ‘it’s not enough to be about diversity, equity and inclusion, we have to be actively anti-racist,’ so this is a small step in that direction but it’s an important one.”
Several student organizations responded in other ways.
Black Student Union (BSU):
Jaiona Spell, president of Edgewood’s Black Student Union (BSU), said systemic racism is difficult topic for herself as well as other Edgewood community members of color.
“Personally, it seems with the wide spread of COVID-19, time has slowed down, and before the protests and riots were in full motion the virus caused the streets to be quiet but social media was very loud and vocal about the hatred that our world has for African Americans and people of color. I believe that African American students and people of color (BIPOC) on our campus have always tried to push the importance of removing racist behavior and racial injustice through our classrooms, cafeterias, and dorm halls.”
Spell also called for administrative action in the removal of racism on campus.
“The first step administration needs to do is call this behavior just as it is HATRED and RACISIM. We can not sugar coat what is happening in the dorm halls, interactions with professors, and discrimination we face in the dining halls and around our campus. Administration needs to emphasis that we will not tolerate racist behavior at all. #NOTONOURCAMPUS. I look forward to meeting with our new President, Dr. Andrew Manion, and discussing his ideas to create an anti-racist campus here at Edgewood College.”
LATINX STUDENT UNION (LSU):
Edgewood’s Latinx Student Union (LSU) released a statement to faculty and staff on June 3.
That same day, LSU started a fundraiser in honor of BLM, which raised $730.25 for FreeThe350, an organization to free black people detained in the Dane County jail.
Vivi Velasquez, president of LSU and organizer of the fundraiser, said black people are disproportionately more likely to end up in jail than white people. “And that has to do with systemic racism among other things,” she said.
The student organization also donated $300 to the organization, for a total of $1,030.25.
“I think that what we wanted was to somehow be a part of this larger movement and support those who are actually putting themselves out in public and fighting to end the never-ending battle that our black communities face on a day to day basis,” said LSU Vice President Abby Briseño.
“It’s amazing to see how people can come together to raise money to support a cause. I just hope that this support doesn’t stop here and that our Black communities continue to receive the supplies and resources that they need. We hope that the partnership displayed during these hard times doesn’t stop in a week or two, but it continues moving forward.”
Other members of LSU’s governing board also spoke on the fundraiser. Treasurer Paola Hernandez described the fundraiser as “a way to help the community to show that we all stand together, and also a way to give back.”
Secretary of LSU Yahair Figueroa commented, “I’m so glad that through LSU we were able to raise money for the BLM fund.”
“Sometimes it feels like we can’t help with much,” continued Figueroa, “but seeing so many people support us, and donate was truly wonderful. I’m really thankful I was able to be a part of this experience and help raise awareness. #tuluchaesmilucha.”
Office of Student Inclusion and Involvement (OSII)
Nikki Charleston of OSII spoke on Edgewood’s appreciation and embracing of diversity. “[Diversity] is not just a word, its action. It’s putting it into action supporting students, hearing what they have to say.” Charleston also addressed systemic racism and white privilege. “I will challenge every person here who is not a person of color, challenge yourself to support those around you … the best way to challenge yourself is through education, learn and support your friends of color because they see that and they appreciate that.”
Student Senate provided OTE with this statement, addressed to Edgewood students.
To the students of Edgewood College,
First – To all the Black students at Edgewood College: You matter and your lives matter.
As protests erupt, sparked by the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade at the hands of police and fueled by years of systemic racism, Student Senate is compelled to condemn injustice, anti-Blackness and discrimination and reaffirm our commitment to challenge administration to cultivate a campus community that centers equity, diversity and inclusion.
For all of us non-Black students, it is long overdue for us to personally reflect on our own biases and prejudices, take the initiative to grow and unlearn these problematic behaviors, and listen to our Black peers about their experiences at Edgewood College and in the community. It is our responsibility to have the difficult conversations with family and friends, challenge problematic behavior and assumptions, and show-up for our peers. We all must take the time to study, reflect, and act in a way that uplifts black voices in our community.
As your Student Senate, we are committed to serving the needs of all students at Edgewood College. We will be donating $400 to Freedom Inc, a local organization that works to challenge the root causes of violence, poverty, racism and discrimination in Madison, WI.
Moving forward, our job is to uplift those who have had to fight for their voice to be heard, center the experiences of Black people and continue to learn from our Dominican tradition.
Remember, all lives do not matter until ALL Black Lives Matter.
From our heart to yours,
The Edgewood College Student Senate