Students were moved this week by a Black Lives Matter demonstration involving dozens of posters duct taped to the wall of Willis Library, Thursday.
The posters, six of which were originally hung by sociology senior Jazmine McGill along with friends David Rafael Montalvo and Nadia Ala’i Rosales have continuously grown in numbers expressing mostly student support for the BLM movement and the victims of police brutality in the United States.
McGill was called to action after a series of traumatic events occurred in the African American community including the recent shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I woke up on Wednesday and decided this was something I needed to do and I did it,” McGill said. “I was really distraught before I even came out here, and I don’t think that I was really in a place where I was thinking. It was really just a point of action, so once I was out here it was about being in a space where- I knew there were going to be people who were going to come out here who wouldn’t agree- so I had to put myself in a place where I could handle them, and actually talk to them in a way that was beneficial.”
Hundreds of students expressed their support, both in person and through social media, stopping to write their thoughts and engage in discussion with other students.
"I'm happy because it's conveying a positive message in the right way,” Converged broadcast media junior Tarrell Rugley said. “It's not combative in any form. It's not aggressive and it gives a lot of people a chance to participate and it's also a conversational piece so it gives people something to talk about."
Even students who hadn’t been aware of the movement or the issue of police brutality were inspired by the work. Behavior Analysis Junior Anna Welch had even been moved to look for more ways to get involved.
“It's kind of moving,” Melch said. “There was one that talked about "What if the tables were turned?" and we don't really talk about it much being white. We’ve talk about how just being white means we're already privileged, and those were things I didn't really think of until I stopped to look at things like this, so it's very moving."
Rugley agrees and hopes even more students of different backgrounds will come by to check out the signs, and add things of their own.
"I think people who are uneducated or have mixed feelings about it are probably getting the right message if they're taking the time to go by and read each sign,” Rugley said. “You know they're going to be able to understand that black lives matter is not about trying to be an aggressor, it's about feeling attacked and it not being justified. It's a call for help."
As students of every gender, race, and ethnicity came together to view the signs, onlookers were amazed by how many different people were coming to talk about and debate the issue of systemic oppression happening all over the country.
“"There're just so many posters now and it's just blowing up with how important it's gotten on campus,” RTVF freshmen Renner Baker said. “It's just super cool how people just continue to just put stuff up there and everybody- not only like one specific race is about it- I haven't seen just a single race I've seen everybody just coming over and talking about it and writing on the walls. It just keeps growing and isn't staying stagnant."
McGill was moved to tears by the support students have expressed this week during the protest.
““There were white students that brought us water,” McGill said. “There was a white student who brought us more poster boards so that we had more space. There was a white student who left flowers for the people who have died. That’s touching.”
Though not all messages have been in support. Issues surrounding popular counter hashtag All Lives Matter were present in the conversations surrounding the demonstration.
“There was one Asian guy who decided to write ‘All Lives Matter’, and he asked me if he could and I told him ‘hey man, this is a space for everybody, so do what you’ve got to do’, you know?” Mcgill said.
Students were not the only individuals present, as some staff members weighed in as they were walking by.
"I was just reacting to the [poster] 'All Lives Matter is racist, wake up' and I just can't identify with that,” Librarian Kristen Wolski said. “I just believe all lives do matter, and I just can't see how all lives matter is racist."
Nobody was met with aggression regardless of opinion, with McGill even begging people not to censor ALM or any other comments, though she did express disdain with people writing profanity.
"I agree with it,” Rugley said. “You know, all lives do matter and also I'm happy they got a chance to come up here and see the other messages that have been relayed about why we are specifically talking about black lives right now."
McGill has met with the school and has been asked to take the posters down, although the university states it will not remove the posters without telling her first. They are seeking a way to make things possible while also staying in alignment with school policy. As the demonstration gains popularity, people from all over the DFW area are showing up to engage in the discussion.
“I know that [McGill] came out here originally by herself, so to see that so many people are moved by what she came out here and did... It really put things in perspective,” Jeremi Lewings, who came to see the posters said. “It humbled me, to know that we're not alone in trying to fight for something."
Lewings encourages police departments to consider training reform to put more steps between a possible confrontation and pulling the trigger.
“"Even our military,” Lewings said. “I mean our military does a lot of questionable things, but they don't just go out and shoot someone. They have steps they have to go through before they just kill someone. That's not what they're there to do, they're there to protect us."
Lewings hopes such a move would help alleviate the sense of panic that comes when an officer is confronted with a potentially hostile situation, breaking the cycle and leading to a change in what feels like a monotonous line of fatalities due to police violence.
"Every time this happens, it's the same cycle: Police don't go to jail, they make up excuses saying 'well they were high' or 'well they had a history of violence' and they go to court and don't get indicted, and then the city gives the family a settlement,” Lewings said. “And then the name becomes a hashtag. There's just a hashtag, every single time. You should not be remembered for being a hashtag."
Lewings and McGill will be going with a group of people to Tulsa to protest the shooting of Crutcher with his family this weekend. McGill hopes to continue to advocate for change, both with BLM and changing the university’s policy on advocating so that other students can have a chance to speak their mind.
“This is the first time that I’ve ever exercised my personal power, and I’m really glad that this is a space that we claimed, and I encourage other people to start making spaces for themselves,” McGill said. “I genuinely feel like this has been a beneficial thing for the university, and it wouldn’t have happened. Maybe that means that policies need to change, so that things like this can happen more often.”