Social Justice New BLAC aims for conversations, advocacy on race issues By Austin Linfante Posted on February 26, 2015 8 min read 0 0 576 New activist group New BLAC meets for their first summit Wednesday night. | Photo by Austin Linfante New BLAC (Black Life Action Coalition) is very much an organization in its infancy. Its Twitter account is less than 100 days old; it just had its first summit Wednesday night. However, New BLAC is rapidly becoming more prominent when it comes to Ohio University activism. This is surprising, considering that the coalition started doing public events this week. On Monday, the group created a “mass graveyard” on College Green, which consisted of dozens of cardboard gravestones with the names of black victims of police brutality painted on them. Later in the day, the coalition held a vigil for those same people and their families. The summit itself consisted of an introduction of New BLAC itself and group discussion (titled “Breakouts”) that analyzed certain topics such as the previous year and semester in race relations, the “New Black” (a movement created by Pharrell Williams) and “reclaiming” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They also took advice as to how the coalition should move forward in the foreseeable future. “It was a really good summit,” said Ryant Taylor, a senior studying English and one of the founders of New BLAC. “We were able to really dig into the topics that we wanted to [talk about] during the breakouts, and I think that it’s good for us to show people the progress that we’re making and also really just explain very clearly what this coalition is trying to do and sort of bring it down to an understandable level.” Unlike most organizations, despite the existence of founders, the coalition claims that they have no leaders and are rather a public body. This is even with the founders meeting every week to plan certain aspects of New BLAC. “We are not the leaders,” said Jasmine-Renee Riley, a senior political science major and another founder of New BLAC. “The people you see in front [of the meeting area] are not the leaders of this organization because we want everyone to feel comfortable. So I really think that it’s important to have that conversational mood about these meetings.” New BLAC was created publically as a result of the #HandsUpWalkOut movement from last semester as well as the occupation of Baker Center in November. Members from the occupation created the #HandsUpWalkOut summit in December, which saw around 80 members discuss the creation of a coalition. The summit saw coverage from three news organizations on campus. During the occupation, the group put together what would be the coalition’s first demand to the university: mandatory cultural competency classes. Members of New BLAC said at the summit that they’re debating on whether the class would be a series of classes over four years or just for freshmen. However, they say that they have had meetings with President Roderick McDavis and Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi over the topic. Due to its infancy, New BLAC currently has a relatively low number of members, even with overlap with the Ohio University Student Union. However, members from the coalition have plans to reach outside the activist circle in Athens and black student organizations at OU. This includes even making the Pan-African colors (red, green and black) on the coalition’s logo very subtle. “We need to reach out to students from Africa, students from all around the world, students from different parts of the country,” Taylor said. “I think it’s important to cast a really wide net, and I think we’re figuring out how to do that because it’s important to understand intersectionality in the issues that not only affect us but issues that affect other people as well.” Members of the coalition are also open to those that disagree. “I personally want to see this group [to have members that are] not its own supporters,” Renee-Riley said. “So I want people who don’t agree with what we support to come here so that we can have that very, very leaded discussion about what is going on. When they come, I don’t want them to feel like they’re overpowered by the people who do support it. I want them to feel mature enough to have that conversation with us.” New BLAC is planning to have meetings every Sunday. CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Jasmine-Renne Riley’s name as Jasmine Renne-Riley. The error has since been fixed.