Unpacking Injustice: How the BU Community is Reacting to the Death of George Floyd

Note: Since the recording of this report, the Boston University S.O. Fight for Social Justice fundraiser organized by Student Government and UMOJA has raised over $140,000. BU has yet to officially match the donation. 

Communities across the United States have risen up in protest following the death of George Floyd, an African American man from Minneapolis. With this death comes another addition to the string of police brutality cases that sweep the nation. Many within the black community have been left feeling exhausted, angry, and unheard. This is no different at Boston University, where many students have voiced their concerns about discrimination and racism, especially by police.


Archelle Thelemaque, a former BU Student Presidential Candidate, said that she is still struggling with the events that transpired in Minneapolis just over a week ago.


With the death of George Floyd, compounded upon the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many that came before them, many are confronted with the grim reality of police brutality in this nation. However, for many, this reality is nothing new. Nick Bates, the Assistant Director of the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, said that with these events comes the opportunity to center the narrative around black and minority stories


UMOJA, the Black Student Union at BU, has begun using its platform to help spread information to help educate BU students on what they can do to help. The Club hosted a town hall on Wednesday June 3rd to talk about how the community can move forward following the events in Minneapolis and across the country.  UMOJA means unity, according to the organization’s social media accounts, and the best way to unite at a time like this is, according to club President Stephanie Tavares, to converse.


“I think that people need to have that conversation of what they can do or how they can become involved in terms of a role, because silence is really the worst thing you can do. You just have to find what your purpose is in these discussions.”


With violence and rioting becoming a more common theme in protests across the US, some are concerned with the direction many protests have gone in. Bates, however, quoted Martin Luther King Jrs. Letter from a Birmingham jail in explaining why people have taken to such action.


Still, Bates cautioned others against using an ambiguous “They” when referring to protestors, saying that there are “rogue actors” taking away from the movement as a whole.


Focusing further on unpacking what justice means in America, Thelemaque zeroed in on the institution of police as the main problem. She argued that while she believes people are inherently good, those good people participate in a broken system which she asserts has never valued black lives


As millions of protesters flood the streets across the nation, the BU community wasted little time in coming together to support Black Lives Matter and raise funding for black advocacy organizations. Additionally The BU Student Government partnered with UMOJA as well as nearly 100 other clubs on campus to raise over $100,000.


Tavares, said that she was overwhelmed by the support of the BU community, and explained how the project came about.


The fundraiser, which ended on June 8, called for BU administration to match the students’ donation to show solidarity with the black community, as well as their own students. So far, BU has not yet matched the donation. Tavares explained what she is hoping the BU administration will do going forward to address the concerns. 


As protests center around police violence and discrimination, many BU students are concerned about how they can feel safe when returning to campus. In a statement to WTBU News, BUPD Police Chief Kelly Nee said that she was enraged by what she saw in the video of Goerge Floyds death, and was devastated that years of trust and community work was being eroded away. 


“I know that Boston University police officers and public safety personnel share my high expectation that we, at all times, will respect every single person we encounter. I assure you that I, and my colleagues, will NEVER tolerate humiliation or abuse of any kind.”


Nee stated that officers will undergo implicit bias training to insure officers are prepared and educated for anything that may come their way, insisting that education is key. 


Still, Bates insisted that the school cannot promise safety within the city of Boston, since there is no “overnight fix” for systemic racism or injustice. However, he believes what BU can do is invest in its students to provide the best environment for learning about the issues. 


Addressing those struggling with their role in these protests right now, Thelemaque assured fellow students that they don’t need to get on the front lines to protest, referencing Howard Thurman’s behind-the-scenes approach to civil rights protests. Instead, she encouraged students to use whatever skills they have and do whatever they can to get involved.


As the country, and indeed many parts of the world stand up against police violence, it seems BU students have no qualms about raising their voice


For WTBU News, I’m Evan Jimenez