Roughly 40 people gathered in Dominican University’s quad on Oct. 29 before marching to the River Forest college’s Priory Campus and back.
Lauryn Bergert, the president of Dominican’s National Association of Colored Women Club and the demonstration’s lead organizer, said the demonstration, formally called the Walk of Solidarity, was designed to honor the Black lives lost by police and white supremacists.
“Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and so many others. I wrote these remarks on Sunday evening,” Bergert told the socially distanced and masked crowd. “Since then, I’ve had to add another name to the list. Walter Wallace Jr. was killed by police officers in Philadelphia.”
Bergert said she has a response for those who might ask why protest in October after George Floyd’s death in May prompted a whole summer of protests around the world.
“Until police stop killing us, I won’t stop protesting,” Bergert said. “Until Black people are truly seen as people in this country, I won’t stop protesting.”
The march also provided a platform for Dominican’s Black students to share their campus experiences. Amid the pandemic, the university has been conducting in-person and remote learning since the start of the fall semester.
“I don’t have to worry about walking around campus and possibly being looked at a certain way because I’m African American, but that’s not something every African American can say,” said Tony Sandifer, a sophomore at Dominican. “Some of us can’t even walk out of our doors without risking being profiled.”
Dominican student Natalia Plato blasted what she described as “performative ally-ship,” when whites put more energy into the appearance of caring about Black injustice on social media than into the work of fighting racial injustice.
“Do you ask yourself before you make a post on social media about Black Lives Matter whether you are doing it because you care about Black folks and their struggles or because you want to check off a box for the day?” Plato said.
“Did you share that infographic, because you think it has valuable information on it, or because you don’t want your Black classmate calling you out on your silence or complacency? It is very easy to post a Black square on your feed and pretend that you’re doing something heroic. It is not easy to watch a video of someone who looks like you being killed for something they did not do.”
Ariel Kimbrough, a senior at Dominican and co-president of the Black Student Union, spoke of the challenges of being Black at the college before listing a series of changes she and her peers want to see at the university.
Kimbrough said that “there are no safe spaces for my fellow African American students and I to go to, if we need support” and that they often feel singled out during classroom discussions that center on African American history, particularly slavery.
“We demand to be treated fairly and looked at, as equals,” she said. “We demand the same opportunities given to white students … We demand cultural awareness training for faculty and staff, because if one more person touches my hair … I am going to lose it. My culture is not a costume or a fairy tale. Everyone wants to be Black until it’s time to be Black.”