University News

Students partake in ‘Day of Silence’

In wake of Ferguson decision, students remain silent to mourn loss of black lives

By
Metro Editor
Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A crowd of about 30 students gathered Tuesday night in front of the steps of Faunce House to conclude a day of silence in memory of victims of police brutality. Many participants wore black clothing and a piece of tape over their mouths to symbolize their solidarity with individuals like Michael Brown and Tamir Rice killed by police in recent months.

The day was organized as a “point of reflection, a time to mourn and a time to think,” said Paapa Nyanin ’16, who coordinated the event with Andrew Gonzales ’15. It was an opportunity to show that “just like black lives matter, black voices are really important,” he said. The Facebook page for the event garnered responses from 200 people who indicated their participation.

Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was killed by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in August, igniting protests against alleged racist policing in Ferguson and nationwide. Last week, a Ferguson grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, inciting more protests and activism. Tamir Rice, a black 12-year-old holding a toy gun, was killed by a white police officer in Cleveland, Ohio last week.

Participating in the Day of Silence was a “very powerful” experience, said Jordan Ferguson ’17, president of the Black Student Union. Seeing other people take part in the day with tangible signs of solidarity was a reminder that there are many students on campus who “adhere to issues they care about,” he said. Faculty members and friends respected his decision to be silent and did not attempt to make him talk, he added.

The decision to organize the event grew from an email thread among black student group leaders that Jordan Ferguson started in an effort to mobilize activism against the decision not to indict Wilson, Gonzales said.

“I have been encouraged by large student turnout” during the previous days of protests, said Armani Madison ’16, president of the Brown University chapter of the NAACP, who also participated in the day of silence. Seeing people with tape over their mouths is “jarring” and a way to remember those “whose voices have been permanently silenced,” he said.

Students will have more opportunities for reflection, discussion and activism in the coming weeks, Jordan Ferguson said. It is important to show that action against racism and police brutality is “not another activist fad” but steps taken to combat a critical and pervasive issue, he said.

Brown’s Day of Silence accompanies other actions across the country, in Providence and on campus. About 200 community members lay down Monday on the sidewalk in front of Sayles Hall and held signs with the names, dates of death and ages of police brutality victims, as part of a die-in organized by black student groups in protest of the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson.

A group of 200 demonstrators, including some Brown students, marched Monday to the State House to show solidarity with protestors in Ferguson and in Mexico, where over 43 students at a teacher’s college in southern Mexico were kidnapped in September and killed after being turned over by police to a drug gang, the Providence Journal reported. This followed a protest on Nov. 25, when 150 demonstrators blocked traffic on Route 95 in Providence as part of a protest against the Ferguson decision, the Journal reported.