Dozens of Boston College students stood in solidarity with protesters across the country demanding racial justice after a grand jury in Kentucky declined on Wednesday to charge any police officers with the killing of Breonna Taylor. Protesters stood outside Lower on Thursday evening to protest the grand jury’s decision, which charged one of three Louisville officers involved in Taylor’s death for first-degree wanton endangerment but not murder.
I came into this day thinking teachers would acknowledge this, administration would acknowledge this. But today went on just as normal—people were still acting like nothing changed. Nothing’s different.
Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT first responder, was killed when law enforcement executed a “no-knock warrant” and began blindly firing shots into her apartment. Her death was just one of many high-profile police killings of Black people that have sparked recent protests across the country.
Malaki Hernandez, one of the speakers at the protest and MCAS ’23, tied the decision in Louisville to the experience of students of color at BC.
“BC doesn’t care or provide as much as they should for minority students, so we want to make it known that even though we are a few, we are here,” Hernandez told The Heights before the protest.
Lubens Benjamin, CSOM ’23, then interjected, asking about the steps BC announced it would be taking to combat racism after a Minneopolis police officer killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes.
It’s our jobs as young adults, young citizens, to speak up for those who can’t speak right now.
As one of these steps, the University announced the Forum on Racial Justice in America, which will sponsor speakers, panels, and seminars about race-related issues, but it has yet to hold an event this semester.
“Where is the Black student forum we were promised?” Benjamin asked. “Especially in a time of unrest like this, it would be reassuring to us.”
The organizers came with “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for Breonna Taylor” signs, Black Lives Matter shirts, and masks. At the event, organized by the Young Democratic Socialists of Boston College, students read poems, engaged in chants, and shared their stories about racism and police brutality in the wake of Taylor’s killing.
“I want to show people that aren’t participating that they can’t just sit in the background anymore,” said Kat Kmetz, one of the protest’s organizers and MCAS ’23, before the protest began. “They have to come out and participate and fight for black people, for Breonna Taylor especially. You can’t just sit back anymore.”
To kick off the event, Aliesha Jordan, Lynch ’23, climbed onto a bench in the commons and requested that those attending the event socially distance and find a place to sit. She and other organizers then shared their motivation for protesting.
“I came into this day thinking teachers would acknowledge this, administration would acknowledge this,” Jordan told the crowd. “But today went on just as normal—people were still acting like nothing changed. Nothing’s different.”
After two minutes of silence in honor of Taylor’s life, Anne Celestin, MCAS ’23, shared a piece by poet Kai Davis about being a Black woman in today’s society.
“I wake up with an apology already forming in my mouth,” Celestin said. “This is what it means to be a contradiction. Too Black to be a woman, and not man enough to be Black. … What makes a woman? Ain’t I a Black woman?”
A series of loud chants followed Celestin’s poem, alternating between “Say her name, Breonna Taylor,” “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now,” and “Black Lives Matter.”
After a loud break for applause, Jordan invited students of color to share their experiences with racism, asking protesters to validate the speakers and support them as they spoke.
I’m tired of being BC’s poster child every single time they want to post something. I’m tired of being followed in stores. And as a Black person, as a person of color, I shouldn’t have to go through these things.
Benjamin talked about the isolation Black students experience on campus when they feel like they can only relate to other Black students. He said that in a world where Black people feel like the only people who care about them are those who look like them, standing up for justice is an obligation.
“This summer you post your black squares, you say this, you say that? You gotta care. We matter, so show you’re about it,” Benjamin said. “It’s our jobs as young adults, young citizens, to speak up for those who can’t speak right now.”
Hernandez spoke next, saying that he’s tired of the racism Black people deal with every day, both at the University and in the broader community.
“I’m tired of being BC’s poster child every single time they want to post something,” Hernandez said. “I’m tired of being followed in stores. And as a Black person, as a person of color, I shouldn’t have to go through these things.”
Jordan closed out the protest with an original poem, saying that the fight for racial justice will continue.
“It doesn’t stop here—this is not just a moment,” Jordan said. “It’s a movement.”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor