Campus protest ignites the desire for social justice as students and staff advocate for Black lives

The protest took place on campus at the housing lawn.

Cara+Simpson+%28Left%29+and+Cordel+Littlejohn+%28Right%29+were+just+two+of+the+many+student-athletes+who+attended+the+protest+Thursday.+Photo+by+Alex+Liscio.

Cara Simpson (Left) and Cordel Littlejohn (Right) were just two of the many student-athletes who attended the protest Thursday. Photo by Alex Liscio.

Brianna Smith, Staff Writer

One campus, one student body, one message: Black Lives Matter.  

On Thursday, students, staff, and various organizations gathered on the housing lawn of FAU’s Boca Raton campus with the intent of being heard and seeking justice – both on and off-campus – for Black lives and civil rights.

Not only were there people of different backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnicities at the protest, there were also representatives from different organizations. 

“I will say when you’re really passionate about something, nobody can take that away from you and no one can really change the intention behind your movement,” organizer and FAU student Madyson Roye said.

SISTUHS Incorporated, the NAACP, the Black Student Union, the Paradigm Press, students from Greek life representatives, as well as law enforcement, were some among several who came out to be a part of what will eventually become history. 

Student-athletes made their mark as such competitors like FAU football player Cordel Littlejohn and women’s XC/Track and Field runner Cara Simpson attended. 

Roye mentioned that what moved her to put together this protest was the death and injustice of Breonna Taylor. 

“It’s the fact that she hasn’t gotten justice yet and me sitting back not doing anything doesn’t really sit well with me,” Roye said.

It has been around 181 days since the passing of Breonna Taylor, which is one of the many reasons protestors came out to be heard. Taylor is among several others who have passed away and their perpetrators continue to walk with no repercussions. 

Roye said that she came up with the idea to put together a protest over the summer.

She wanted the protest mainly on campus so the focus of this movement would be centered around the student body by using their voice and power to come together and bring about waves of change.

The different organizations assisted the protest as volunteers as they helped the protestors register and provide them with water bottles, buttons, and pins. Because of COVID-19, they required and provided face masks for everyone involved.

Students and protestors shared their piece and their voice by speaking up on matters that mean most to them. They spoke of the times where they had been discriminated against or not accepted in multiple and different environments and circumstances. 

“I was doing laundry by myself and a whole group of white boys walked in. I’m by myself, the only girl, and I had my NCONW [National Council of Negro Women] shirt on,” protestor and student Shanda Falestin said. “I could feel everybody just staring at me and they’re like ‘why are the negros at this school?’”

These encounters are not just old or past experiences, some are very new, happening in spring 2020 on campus. Another protestor mentioned being harassed by law enforcement as young as the age of seven years old. 

“He would put me in the back of his squad car, he would torment me, again the officer is white, called me the ‘N word’ which was actually my first introduction to the word,” protestor and student Johnson Sinophat said. “I don’t have a large distaste for those authority figures, but there are some emotions that are tied with why I have a slight dislike towards them.”

Students were happy to see the outcome of the protest. It meant a lot for them to see others standing with them in demand for social justice.

“I feel like we’re finally taking a step for Black people at FAU,” Falestin said.

From the student voice to lawful representation, police attended this event in solidarity with students and protestors with the intent of assuring the message that was being portrayed through this movement was not only heard, but seen.

“As the chief of police and also a man of color, I believe this is monumental for our students to be able to express themselves and to be able to speak out, especially when we say that we are the most diverse university in the state of Florida,” Chief of Police Sean Brammer said.

Chief Brammer explained that he is a member of the Palm Beach County Chiefs Association and chairman for the Law Enforcement Planning Council, where the chiefs gather to discuss serious matters and situations. 

“I do have a voice where I can sit with all the chiefs in Palm Beach County where I can express to them what all of our students are facing,” Brammer said.

As both a Black man and a police officer, Chief Brammer confirmed that he does face trials and tribulations. He mentioned this new term that has been composed, called “black and blue.” He says that it is sometimes an internal struggle, but he reminds himself of his purpose and his “why.”

“I’m Black and I’m also wearing the blue uniform. I am the elephant in the room,” Brammer said. 

Students, faculty, and staff made it clear during the protest that they were ready to stand together in unity by silencing the hate and using their voices and platforms to receive justice.

“We are tired and we are done with the mistreatment and the unfairness that we incur day-to-day, and we’re ready for a change,” protestor and student Carine Charles said.

Bria Smith is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @itsbriiaa.