Rainy weather did not stop a group of students and local community members from gathering at the intersection of George and Brook streets Sunday evening to speak out against the racist posters and pamphlets that were disseminated throughout the University’s campus and other areas in Providence last week. The event — organized by Brown University National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, local community activists and students from other Providence-based colleges and high schools — followed a press conference held last Monday at the same site, The Herald previously reported.
While the first press conference centered around speeches from Rhode Island politicians, such as Mayor Jorge Elorza, this gathering gave students the chance to voice their thoughts and build a coalition across Rhode Island, said Ellen Cola ’20, president of Brown University NAACP and an organizer of the event.
Through their attendance, students demonstrated their initiative in fighting against racism in Rhode Island, Kevin Boyce ’21, the secretary of Brown University NAACP, told The Herald. “There was a lot of unrest among the students, especially when we weren’t allowed to speak in the first (press conference). … A lot of people came out of it thinking this is great and all, but what exactly is going to come from it?”
At the event, students took turns speaking into a megaphone to publicly condemn the posters. “I cannot say I’m surprised by the audacity of the individuals (that) passed out blatantly racist pamphlets across the state of Rhode Island. I’m angry, I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised,” Boyce said. “However, I’m also not surprised by the response of our amazing community,” he added. “By showing up and speaking out against these groups, we are collectively showing that we will no longer put up with this behavior.”
The pamphlets confirmed that “unrelenting anti-black racism is still happening on our campuses,” said Nikkie Ubinas ’18, an attendee who also spoke at the gathering. “Here we are, still here, still angry and still tired … this is why it’s super important to take a stand.”
The event highlighted student initiative from Brown, Providence College and the University of Rhode Island “to make sure our voices are truly heard in our community,” he added.
As Brown University NAACP is in the process of planning future events, Cola said she hopes people will be motivated to keep this momentum going. “One thing that needs to come from this is a continued conversation between community members and students from all campuses and ... high schools in Providence and in Rhode Island” in pushing back against racism, she added.
“We’re out here trying to make a difference and we’re here as a strong community to show that there are problems here on Brown’s campus, but that we will work with other campuses and Brown University to make it a better place,” Boyce said.