The Black Lives Solidarity Day at Illinois State University started with a campus visit from a Seattle educator a couple of weeks ago and it sparked an effort to join his initiative to raise awareness of the need for systemic changes to guarantee equality.
Activist Jesse Hagopian criticized standardized testing for causing teachers to teach the test, not the students. He also raised awareness of what he calls, “the opportunity gap” between students of different races. Hagopian's initial efforts to raise awareness through a t-shirt campaign resulted in a bomb threat. After working to get more community buy-in, he launched today's campaign and it grew to a national event.
The Solidarity Day became more than a one-day effort at ISU. It started with a candlelight vigil Monday that drew more than 200 people to the quad. The Black Lives Matter flag raised on the quad during the vigil will fly until the end of the week.
Associate Professor Pamela Twyman Hoff of ISU's Educational Administration and Foundations Department was worried a campaign to sell 200 Black Lives Matters t-shirts would fall short. Instead, they sold out within two days. Normal Community High School bought most of the rest of the 100 additional shirts ordered through the campus effort.
The Solidarity Day campaign included many photos of faculty, staff and students wearing Black Lives Matters t-shirts and using #atisublacklivesmatter. ISU alumni also participated with posts from Indiana Ohio, California, Indiana and North Carolina.
Twyman Hoff sees a ground swell of support from allies who have now turned into comrades in the fight for equality. She believes the Black Lives Matter movement and the awareness campaign this week will spark important conversations. “That people will see that they are not alone; that there are people they can call on for help and support and that we can come together and that each of us in our respective locations can make a change.”
During a Solidarity Day Reflection event at the Bone Student Center Hoff prepared to challenge community members to think about how they can contribute to change. “For young people in particular, they need to see that they can do something. That may be learning about a particular topic. That may mean speaking out in class or coming together and making demands and requests, those kinds of things are what I’m hoping [will occur].”
But not everyone seems to be endorsing the movement. She had not seen them first-hand, but Twyman Hoff said there were what were described as disparaging remarks written in chalk on the sidewalk near the flagpole flying the Black Lives Matter flag. "But, that is not phasing me today. What is more pronounced is that 300 people bought t-shirts, $10 a piece and some people made donations and not only did some people pay for the t-shirts, they're wearing them."