The Black Lives Matter Movement: UWB and Student Involvement in 2020

Written by: Noel Gonzales Basilio, Anna Belova-Torres, Blake Catlow, Dulin Louis Hayden, Julia Russell, Isaiah Williams, Wenzuo Zhao – CBLR students

The rise of the Black Lives Matter, BLM, movement as a result of hate crimes, systemic injustice, and racism has given many Americans a wake-up call over the summer of 2020. Individuals have been witnesses to multiple public protests after the unlawful killings of unarmed African Americans. 

#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Those a part of BLM states that by combating and countering acts of violence, creating a space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, [we] are winning immediate improvements in our lives.

The rise of BLM into the public eye has led to a societal pivot that has helped give light to organizations like BLM. This organization is a collective of liberators who believe in an inclusive and spacious movement, affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folk, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum, and are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise.

Beginning in May 2020, and peaking in June 2020, half a million people turned out in nearly 550 places across the United States for BLM protests. The murder of Breonna Taylor on March 13th and the murder of George Floyd on May 25th sparked protests all across the nation.

At the University of Washington, Bothell, students have been more removed when it comes to BLM protests as they are not as involved as the students at the Seattle campus. However, despite being farther away from protests, it does not diminish the emotions, contributions, and conversations that students are having and participating in. 

The Black Student Union, BSU, held a Black Healing event in June that was facilitated by a previous BSU member to put together a space to come and express the full range of emotions that students were feeling and working through.

The Social Justice Organizers, SJOs, held multiple Dine ‘n Dialogues surrounding racial justice and allowed students to express their emotions whilst also holding an educational space. 

Student Engagement and Activities, SEA, also held multiple anti-racist meetings, including a space for white students to come together and explore privilege and support one another in practicing anti-racism throughout everyday lives. SEA also held a similar space for APIDA, Asian Pacific Islander Desi American, students to share their stories, perspectives, and engage in conversations about anti-blackness in the community. 

SEA also held a UWB community gathering for students to grieve and care for one another along with the Counseling Center to provide one on ones for students. 

The Diversity Center also released a list of resources in which various members of the student community could engage with as well as a call-in to do better with tangible addiction items, which many organizations and clubs were openly sharing with students. 

One of the main issues that were preventing students from getting involved with the BLM movement is that they did not know how to or don’t want to go out and protest for various reasons with COVID-19, safety, or even the distance being in Bothell with most protests being in downtown Seattle. UWB senior Megan Rich detailed a simple way for students to get involved. 

“Vote for people who have the same beliefs as you,”

Megan Rich, UWB student

Whitman Morton, a senior at the University of Washington Bothell stated, “I like the current direction that the Black Lives Matter movement is going. Ideally, I would like to see more support from our political leaders and other people of power. However, I think that it is a step in the right direction toward justice and equality”.

One of the main avenues that Black Lives Matter is using to spread their message is through protests and marches. Morton went on to add that, “personally, I have not been to one. I know several students that go to the Seattle campus and have attended movements that have these rallies”. 

The Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality; it is about systematic racism built into the structures of the government, and how we the people need to recognize and combat it. 

The Black Lives Matter protests can bring out many different emotions from people. UW Bothell student and activist, Arielle Kagarabi explained her emotions about attending one of the BLM protests this past summer. 

Kagarabi said “We were all listening to performances, to poems, and, I’m seeing so many people come out for a movement. I know a lot of people were scared because of coronavirus to leave their houses, so seeing so many people, and so many different families, I’ve never seen before, and alumni coming back just to support people who look like me, I think that was like a really dope feeling.” 

The BLM protests show that engaging and participating in the movement can be both powerful and inspiring.

“What we’re going through now is almost the same thing that people were going through when they were in their twenties, like thirty years ago, or forty years ago, so seeing that it’s really powerful and you’re seeing how powerful social media is, but you’re also seeing how powerful word of mouth is.”

Arielle Kagarabi, UWB student

The racism and oppression Black Americans have been going through has been happening for years, one of the most powerful ways we can get engaged is through social media. 

Roux Graves, a student at UWB, gave a great first-hand experience about attending the protests and being a member of the BLM movement. She described her story, how people treated her then and now, and how she feels the media and schools are projecting ideas about the movement. 

“I believe besides social media and protesting there is always signing petitions, there’s always donating but there is also going to local communities and helping out there and helping out families there that are in need. I just feel like we could be doing more for the community as such like coming together as a whole, helping kids with education as well.”

Roux Graves, UWB student

This past year’s movement has shown us just how much of a need for the community there is. There have been a multitude of hate crimes, injustice, and racism in our society where instead there should be equality, peace, and inclusion. To learn more about resources and ways to get involved or help the movement, visit: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

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