In solidarity with the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, the University’s Black Student Union held the “Say Their Name” event to honor individuals who have lost their lives due to police brutality. On its Instagram account, @novabsu honored a victim each day of the week. Each post included a short description of the victim, his or her death and resources, such as petitions and email templates, to send to state officials. “Say Their Name” concluded with a protest and vigil on Friday, Oct. 2.
Monday was dedicated to George Floyd, a 46-year-old man who was murdered on May 25, 2020 on the streets of Minneapolis. Floyd’s death ignited protests and rallies in major cities across the nation, which attracted global attention. Breonna Taylor, a medical worker in Louisville, was honored on Tuesday. She was murdered in her own home on March 13, 2020 during a police raid. Wednesday’s post honored Elijah McClain, who died under medical care after police restrained him while he was walking home in a ski mask. McClain lost his life on Aug. 24, 2019. Daniel Prude was killed on March 23, 2020, and he was the final victim honored on Thursday. Prude lost his life during a mental health episode in Rochester, New York.
The protest and vigil, held Friday, Oct. 2, brought the greater community together.
“I was really reminded of was how important it is to keep your peers educated if you want to be a good ally,” Catherine Kemnitz, a sophomore who attended the protest, said.
The president of the Black Student Union, senior Daphney Lebrun, explained that the group decided to host the event to educate others on victims of police brutality and on social injustice.
“Too many times we witness these traumatic events across the world as videos, pictures and articles of our Black brothers and sisters are watched in silence,” Lebrun said. “We wanted to use our platform to stand up for our people and stand up for ourselves because it could have been anyone of us.”
The event also acted as a way to bring harsh realities to light for the entire University community.
Lebrun continued to explain that students can often get stuck in the “Villanova bubble” and become ignorant to the realities of the outside world. She voiced that students of color fear the police and frequently analyze every move they make when off-campus. More so, the Black Student Union wanted other students to comprehend that their classmates face these realities daily and encourage them to make the change to be active allies.
“We wanted our allies to stand up for us and speak out,” Lebrun said. “Too many times Villanovans are scared of speaking up and going against the norms, but it was time for that to end.”
The Black Student Union also believes that in order to make positive change on campus, the administration and staff must receive training in diversity and inclusion. Training would occur at all levels, from University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D., to financial aid counselors and professors. The group also advocates for a distinguished committee to be formed to admit a more diverse student population and faculty. The committee would oversee diversity training for all University faculty and staff.
Finally, the group has advocated that the diversity course required only for students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences be extended to every student.
“Continuing the ideals of Caritas, Veritas and Unitas means acknowledging the realities of the Black students at Villanova,” Lebrun said.
The Black Student Union will continue to host events to educate students, staff and faculty of the University and continue to advocate for change. The group’s upcoming events include a watch party of “Black Panther” to honor late actor Chadwick Boseman. There will also be girls’ chats and guy talks hosted for students to discuss issues and experiences that have occurred on campus.