Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Kelsey Donk, Web Editor
Last Tuesday morning, Kalamazoo College President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran wore a black hoodie and stood before a gathering of people in Red Square. “My friends have spoken my mind,” she said loudly into the microphone, referring to the over one hundred fifty students and faculty members wearing hoodies and headscarves in a demonstration against hate-crimes and racial injustice.
This protest, “Speaking Truth to Racial Terror,” was intended to “commemorate those who died recently, and bring awareness to a wider issue that has plagued this country,” Arcus Center Program Coordinator Hussain Turk said. The demonstration was a response to the recent deaths of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Al Awadi, according to Turk. Martin, an African-American teenager, was killed in a Florida neighborhood on Feb. 26 and Al Awadi, an Iraqi immigrant and mother, was killed in her California home on March 24.
Throughout the event, the speakers highlighted that the slayings of Martin and Al Awadi were not isolated events. “I wish we didn’t have to do this, but we do” Turk said before the demonstration began, “To me, this event means a lot, it’s a sad event because it’s about the murder of people of color.”
Several faculty and students spoke about the two slayings and racial injustices during the protest. Turk, along with English professors Gail Griffin and Diane Seuss, shared poems about their own experiences. Anthropology professor Adriana Garriga-Lopez called community members to action during her speech. “We must seek a broad and transformational social justice,” she said, “We see a pattern that’s being repeated … we need to recognize these connections.”
The messages presented by the speakers at the demonstration were well received by the students and faculty present. “I’m here because I’m black and I’m brown,” Morgan Overstreet, K’14, said, “The issue of racism applies to my life.” Dean of Students Sarah Westfall was happy that so many members of the Kalamazoo College community supported the event. “This helps us in a local way to be aware of things happening outside of campus,” she said.
The Arcus Center and supporters of the movement against racial injustices now face the challenge of taking action after the demonstration, according to Lee Caldwell, K’12, who spoke at the event. “Honestly, I don’t know if it’ll change things. We have events that get everyone excited, and then it’s pushed aside,” he said, “We have to push this movement now.”