STORY BY JESSICA LYNK
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
This chant invoked emotion in students. This chant empowered students. This chant made students uncomfortable.
The thirty-word chant began after a demonstration held by the Coalition of Black Students (CBS) at the Yahoo Technology and Politics Conference on Friday.
It continued in Quad Creek Cafe as students stood chanting with their fists in the air. The chant was in solidarity with students who are protesting at the University of Missouri, but it was also an avenue to invoke change at Drake.
After a string of racist incidents at Mizzou that caused the president to resign, Drake students were inspired to take action as well.
“It informed people and it made people aware,” said Jacques Goavec, president of CBS. “There are some individuals that felt uncomfortable by it with all of the things going on, but that is (the) kind of the thing that needed to be done.”
The photo brought in over a hundred students in front of Old Main to show their support to Mizzou. The photo was then shared on social media with the hashtag Drake4Mizzou.
Goavec felt that this was a way not only to show support, but also take action in order to stop racism at Drake.
“Some of the demonstrators felt that we were tired of not having our voices heard,” Goavec said. “Actually making that drastic move to protest and demonstrate and take action in a very visible, very expressive demonstration was important to show this is something we care and we demand a change.”
As a predominantly white campus, the majority of students may not realize there was anything to change at Drake.
“It is really easy to forget that students of color at a lot of places don’t have the same college experience,” said sophomore Brandi Dye.
The events of Mizzou hit close to home with a lot of minority students at Drake, but even closer to Dye, who is from Columbia, Missouri, where Mizzou is located.
“It is my hometown, so I am fired up. These are the people I went to high school with, that I have known since kindergarten,” Dye said.
Dye has watched the story unfold throughout the month.
“Before it was picked up by Buzzfeed, NPR and CNN, I saw the #Concernedstudent1950 on my timeline just from people I follow,” Dye said. “This has been two weeks, not just the past few days. It is easy to forget that this has been a long time coming. Students have been protesting for a while.”
This momentum that has picked up gives hope to Goavec.
“The demonstration shows we stand in solidarity with University of Missouri but we also want to make action and change to the way things are here,” Goavec said. “If Mizzou can do it, Drake can do it too.”
Dye feels that acknowledging the protests has helped start change at Drake.
“Drake has acknowledged (the events) which is important, because it would be easy to ignore it because we are a prominently white institution, 6 hours away,” Dye said. “‘Why should we have to think about it?’ But we have and I respect those who are willing to stand up and say something about it.”
For Dye and Goavec, the beginning of change amongst the student body is education.
“The biggest thing is to educate yourself,” Dye said. “Don’t be the guy who shares the Facebook post that they didn’t actually read. You can’t really educate yourself until you read at least two or three types of things and kind of get a fuller picture,” Dye said. “If you are educated, you can form an educated opinion, which is better than standing by silently or just shouting babble that you know nothing about.”
Goavec echoed the same idea, adding that questions are just crucial.
“A lot of people are very hesitant in wanting to ask and so they go off of what they have experienced,” Goavec said. “People need to actually take the time to ask questions. ‘What makes us so unique and different in compared to other people?’”
This protest is just a beginning of the changes the Coalition of Black Students are working towards on campus.
The group is currently working on a list of demands in order to call upon change for the atmosphere of Drake.