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Black fraternity holds vigil for lives lost to police brutality

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Several weeks ago, late at night in North Carolina, Jonathan Ferrell was in a serious car accident. After kicking out the back windshield, he walked, severely injured, to the nearest house and knocked on the door. The woman who answered thought he was dangerous, and called the police. The police arrived at the scene and saw Ferrell coming toward them, for help.

“I go to the police, the protectors, the 911, I go to them and I have my hands outstretched. I’m unarmed. But do I receive help? No, I receive 12 shots, 10 that hit me. So I laid there dead, and you know me now as a social injustice case, instead of what I was as a collegiate football player. Did I deserve to die?”

With the story of Jonathan Ferrell bellowed out to a crowd of students on the wet bricks of Scripps Amphitheater last night, Brandon Tramble from Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity began the 2013 Black Male Summit, and posed the question for the evening: “Did I deserve to die?”

The Black Male Summit is an annual event held by the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. The summit for this year was a candlelight vigil to honor those black men and women who have lost their lives because of racism, President Julius Smiley said.

Ferrell’s story was only one of many. Members also told the stories of Michael Jerome Stewart, a black graffiti artist who died after alleged police brutality; Eleanor Bumpurs, an elderly black woman with mental issues who was killed after allegedly attacking police officers who fired two shots at her while in the process of trying to evict her; and Oscar Grant, a black man killed by a transit officer after allegedly resisting arrest at a transit stop.

Behind the speakers, an object in the shape of a body, fully dressed in jeans, tennis shoes and a hoodie, was hanging from a noose. The figure continued hanging behind the speakers throughout the presentation.

“This, this is black face. Black face represents the white men and how they see us as black males in today’s society,” said Dave Foster, Treasurer of Kappa Alpha Psi. “We are the oppressed currently. We are not surviving in America.”

Smiley later referenced the figure, saying the acts of violence being committed today are no different than being hanged.

Many of the fraternity members and others in the crowd wore hoodies in reference to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. Smiley said it was to make a statement about the stereotypes of black men.

“We want to wear the hoodies just to kind of symbolize that even though you may think of this as the stereotype you have of us, this isn’t the people who you think we are,” he said.

After the presentation, Smiley asked the audience who had heard of these situations prior to the summit. About four people raised their hands. Sophomore Lorne Ownens said this resonated with him.

“When they asked about the situation, and… there was maybe like three or four people who rose their hands. It wasn’t that many people who knew about these serious situations. So like, if this happened to me, I’m scared to know, would I be a life-changing situation or would I just be a statistic, just a normality in what’s happening?” Ownens said.

Junior Tiarra Comer said she has had similar worries after researching cases of African Americans being shot by law enforcement.

“I’ll have these dreams of, like, someone coming in the door and just shooting me, and I’ll wake up terrified,” Comer said. “I have no idea what it means… I just take it more so as inspiration to get up and do more to change.”

Jareed Robinson, a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, was instrumental in deciding the theme of the summit. He said his mom was the motivation.

“I can’t even leave the house at all without my mom being worried, no matter what time of day it is. Just seeing her like that just kind of forced something in me to bring it up to [the other Kappa Alpha Psi members] to do a program [like this],” Robinson said.

Smiley said that he hopes to “really show the entire campus that, one, that racism still exists. If you don’t think it still exists, it still does. But two is, there are ways that we can fix this problem.”

The message was heard. Morgan Morgan described the situations as bittersweet. Bitter because of the lives that have been lost, but also sweet because “these murders are a catalyst for our generation, for wanting to change things… These people have unintentionally shown us what we won’t stand for,” she said.

Similarly, Owens said,“I guess what I want to take from this is I really want to make change, and just help myself realize I have the power to make change… and stop this.”

Ohio University and Athens are a good place to start, Smiley said.

“If we can do it here, in Athens, Ohio, a small kind of rural-area town, then it can show people that they can do it everywhere,” he said. “I want it to be a domino effect, and have Ohio University start the first domino.”

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One Comment

  1. Dean Grisso

    October 7, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Great article. Very thought provoking.


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