Black Lives Matter makes its way to Oswego

SUNY Oswego students and faculty shared stories, sang and rapped to express their feelings towards the Black Lives Matter movement this past Thursday.

The event was one of the many planned for the Oz Speaks series held in the Sheldon Hall Ballroom.

About 100 eager people of the SUNY Oswego community filled almost every seat in the ballroom, with many choosing to stand along the back. At least half of the attendees expressed themselves in front of the crowd.

“As you may have seen on the posters, this is not a debate, nor a place for hate,” said Dr. Jerri Howland, associate vice president Student Affairs and Dean of Students. “It is an inclusive session that’s safe for expression.”

In the front of the auditorium sat two microphones for anyone to go up and say whatever was on their mind. At the conclusion of sharing their thoughts, they would snap their fingers two times and the audience would respond with the same thing. The two finger snaps signified that the audience understood and empathized with what the speaker said.

Any student and faculty who were too afraid to approach the microphone or people with questions that might stir up a debate still had the opportunity to participate. There was a white board in the back of the room called “the parking lot” where yellow sticky notes containing these people’s thoughts were put.

According to the SUNY Oswego website, “a series of moderated speak-outs titled “Oz Speaks” will enable SUNY Oswego students to express their thoughts and feelings about vital topics of today, from the shootings at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub to Black Lives Matter, from the concept of political correctness to Blue Lives Matter.”

The event kicked of with moderator Lamont Sadler, a SUNY Oswego student who is host of LIVE with Monty Kelvin and Friends on WNYO 88.9 FM, paying homage to the activists of the civil rights movement.

“I’m very proud of the people who came before me,” Sandler said. “We are still fighting for equality in this country and all around the world.”

Howland said staff members in the Student Affairs and Enrollment Management division started the planning for the Oz Speaks events. She also had been in touch with several student workers over the summer, including Ryan Smith, the president of the Pride Alliance on campus.

Dr. Jerri Howland opening up the event.

“It was a group of faculty and staff discussing it and as soon as we got students returning, we pulled a meeting together of students, faculty, and staff,” Howland said. “The idea definitely was developed over the summer thinking about our population and thinking about our community.”

According to The Huffington Post, at least 15 African Americans have died during encounters with the police since Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started kneeling for the national anthem. Kaepernick’s peaceful protest began at an Aug. 26 preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

In wake of the recent rise of the killing of unarmed African Americans by police officers, students at SUNY Oswego and all over the country are making their voices be heard.

The shockwaves Black Lives Matter is sending across the country has helped spawn other groups in the Central New York community. One group, Project X — Nonviolence based in Syracuse, is founded on the ideal of eliminating gun violence as a whole.

CEO and Founder Shaunna L. Spivey-Spinner explained that nonviolence movements like her own get a following very quickly due to people wanting to take part in change.

“I started Project X — Nonviolence in 2010,” Spivey-Spinner said. “I lost a mentor that was very close to me to gun violence and it sparked something in me that needed to change.”

The Oz Speaks event has inspired students and faculty to take what they learned in the ballroom and apply it in the communities that they live in to incite change.

“In general, all students are vocal, all students are passionate; I think all students have a value system that’s really important to them that they like to express,” Howland said. “All students are trying to find ways to understand and express what’s going on in the world, so that’s why we have an event like this.”

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