Photo Credit/ Jeff Warner
Due to recent events involving police officers, the FIU community came together to reflect on the escalation of tragedies taking place all around the world. FIU gathered to reflect on the significant horrors taking place in Turkey and Bangladesh, and also the systemic issues concerning police brutality and violence here in the United States.
Invited speaker, Nykeema Radway, president of the Black Student Union at FIU said “It feels like I have been in this place before. In a place of grief, anger, a lot of confusion, and pain.”
Radway told the audience who gathered in GC 140 on Friday, July 8, that she and many others in the community have been mourning the deaths of many victims in the past few days and in the last few years.
“A year ago, we were mourning the deaths from the Charleston shooting, the murder of Sandra Bland, and a young Black boy, Mike Brown, [who] laid in the streets in Ferguson [for] over four hours after being gunned down,” said Radway. “By who? Yes, it was an individual person, but it was a system. A system of violence which was preceded by the decades of the Jim Crow laws and the centuries of the institution of slavery.”
Radway mentioned that even though the recent tragedies impact her and the Black community at FIU, many of us can unite in our struggles to create change.
“This [is the] history of the African descendants in the nation, but this rhetoric is the same for places impacted by imperialism and European colonialism,” said Radway. “Orlando, Baton Rouge, Minnesota, Dallas, Turkey and Bangladesh is a collective struggle that calls for many solutions.”
Radway asked the FIU community to take time to recognize those issues and to heal. She asked that the community process their emotions before taking immediate action.
“If you need to cry before standing, then do so. Or if you need to cry while standing, then feel free to do that, too,” said Radway. “This is not a battle between us or them. We as a people of color fight for the liberation of all the oppressed folks. It will be the task of allies to stand up.”
Radway also encouraged allies to join the conversation and take part in creating change within our communities.
“You do not need to be Black to promote change or to encourage change in the Black community. Encourage people to take action in a positive way,” said Radway. “Know that it is OK to be angry and hurt. Rooting that pain in humanity allows us to build a better tomorrow. Please do not lose hope.”
FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg also reminded students that FIU gathers in times like these because the community cares about how recent events affect everyone. He also spoke about students and their potential to make lasting changes in our community.
“You all have the potential to lead by example, and in moments like this, we have an opportunity to recommit to that. Let’s mourn the losses, but use the memory of the pain around this mourning to build a more just and equitable society,” said Rosenberg. “We cannot be on the sidelines, because we are losing the stability that guarantees the harmony and the commodity that is so critical to maintain this democracy.”
Cheryl Nowell, assistant vice president of student affairs and director of Counseling and Psychological Services said, “We come together today as a university to strengthen the ties that bind us together and to strengthen our resolve. To be reminded that who we are matters in this world and that what we do day in and day out, makes a difference.”
Nowell also mentioned that the University provides many services for students who are grieving and are in need of assistance. She said that the staff and the offices at the university are open to everyone to provide a safe space. In addition, there are multicultural programs and services, counseling and victim empowerment services, and the women’s center that are available to students if needed.
Tyrone Giffrard, a junior studying information technology told Student Media how he felt FIU was handling issues that students are facing.
“I can tell they are very sincere, and don’t get me wrong, I feel very safe on campus,” said Giffrard. “But still, as an IT consultant, I have been stalked [while] being racially profiled; [asked] ‘what are you doing here’ like I am out of place, and I’m Black. It is a crazy world, and there are days I don’t want to leave.”
“It’s good that we have resources on campus,” said Giffrard. “It is nice coming together, and it is nice the the president sent out an email for grieving students, but it is still terrifying to step out and to think that you may get shot.”
FIU police chief, Alex Casas, also shared his thoughts and promises at the gathering to let students know how the police department is here to protect and preserve the University.
“We, your police department, will not allow the actions of individuals to weaken this commitment to our community. We are FIU,” said Casas. “Our FIU community needs to have this same resolve. The events that have transpired must galvanize our community and it must inspire our resolve to stay together as one.”
Casas also spoke to Student Media about how the FIU community can be assured they will be safe under the FIU police force.
“It is a two-way street, it goes both ways. As far as reassuring our FIU community, I think that it’s important that we are simply here to serve them, to protect, and preserve the things I spoke about,” said Casas. “I know that our practice is consistent. We have increased our training over the last few years in light of what is going on around the country to have that empathy. To realize that everyone has a different paradigm and a different perception.”
The gathering took place in order to allow students to express their opinions, share their thoughts and ask questions. FIU highlights the importance of mourning and reflection on recent tragedies that have taken place, and to seek assistance on campus if needed.