Rachelle Berry

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure - Marianne Williamson 

I am a member of the coalition for recognition and redress and I’m tired. I’m tired of the racial violence both symbolic and material, close in proximity to my person and far away. I’m tired of the obstinance of this university in the face of truth tellers of white supremacist violence on this campus that is both past and present. But most of all I have just had a busy week. Besides the teaching and the grading I do, I am now fighting my university for things they should have already done things that shouldn’t take a fight. I shouldn’t have to fight for a Southern institution of higher learning to tell the truth about slave holders whose names are on many of their buildings, whose statue is on north campus, whose paintings are hanging up in the hallways, and whose white washed story plasters the campus. I shouldn’t have to demand the university invest with dollars and cents in the people it has harmed and the Black students of this community. I shouldn’t have to tell the university to pay its own workers a living wage so they can live in this city. But alas I do because it is our duty to fight for our freedom. 

On Monday we asked for the simplest thing to schedule a meeting to discuss the demands we have made of the university as a coalition of students, staff, faculty, and community members. We walked into the administration building and spoke with Amy Andrews respectfully at 11 am. She requested 2-3 business days for processing and we then demanded a response by the end of business day. She said she would try and we went on our way.  We regrouped at Tate and marched across campus with over 80 students and faculty chanting slogans we wrote ourselves. When we reached the admin building the police chief in his usual suit was there to obstruct our entry. He let only six students in at a time and we were only allowed to speak with the police. Shocked by their obstruction to a simple follow up. The larger group stayed for longer than planned to protest this escalation. As we started to dwindle in the heat we addressed the 60+ one more time before dismissing those who did not plan to stay till 5pm. A small but dedicated group stayed behind. Needless to say we didn’t get our meeting but we would be back. After some much needed recuperation we came back on Thursday for a picnic. It was a lovely day in the blistering sun and we came dressed in our summer best for a restorative picnic on the lawn. At some point we decided to check up on our request for a meeting. A small group of no more than ten walked up the steps to open the door only to again be met with an officer in a suit. We realized the surveillance had been on us the entire time six cops and the associate dean and a communications official sat documenting our every move. Caught off guard by this we were not going to back down. We made the cops explain their closing of a public meeting before its operating hours. They weaponized the policy for reservations against us. They said you need to stay in your designated area and the place for expressive activity is not in this building. We did not come for expressive activity we came to follow up on our request for a meeting. We have not once demonstrated inside the building of the admin building and our only conversation with an administrator was respectful and cordial on both sides. But that soon ended once they sent armed guards to block the entry of Black students for the second time into the decision making space of the university. We were not having this and we argued for our right to enter a public meeting. The cops stuck to their guns and eventually forcibly shoved two students out of the doorway and barred our entry from the building. We sat at the steps till 5 with hastily written signs that said they brought guns to our picnic and white supremacy lives here. patiently we waited for the follow up we had not yet received and are still waiting on. Some might ask why did we stay. We stayed because it is our duty to win. We believe in the demands we have made of the campus as the beginning of a more equitable future for Athens and we will not let up until they are met. That day we were faced with the reality of the battle ahead and how scared the university is of their history of slavery that they would send the police to be the spokespeople of this university and to hide from Black students. 

 

But this is no time for despair. This week we flexed our people power. We believe we have a duty to fight for our freedom as the ancestors of those who had their lives paved over by white supremacy and their graves desecrated in death. And as the ancestors of abolitionists who fought and died for Black freedom. We are our ancestor’s wildness imaginations who remind us to not be afraid of our freedom dreams of a more just and equitable world but to go out and build them. We do not make these demands lightly the campus thinks it has the upper hand here, but we will not be so easily squashed because as Assata Shakur taught us it is our duty to fight for our freedom and it it our duty to win. we must love and protect one another. that love for each other and the freedom dream will always keep us coming back to demand equity from those at the seat of power. So I say again we will be back. 

© 2020 Alden DiCamillo