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Commentary Letter to the Editor

In response to: The remnants of the Paint it Black movement, peeling paint and a promise of change

Originally sent as an email to the author of the article.

I want to preface by saying that the Student Activities Board has never painted the Painted Street in November. The process we use is designed for April. In April, the first thing we do is paint the entire street with a base coat. We add two layers of this base and let it set for an entire week before Street Painting and the Paint Fight. On that day, students paint two coats of their background color onto the street. They let the coats dry, sketch their design and, later, paint their design. This entire process happens in a span of one week and at a time of year when the weather is much, much milder and the ground is (usually) not frozen. The winter has always taken a toll on the condition of Painted Street and we have never been able to control or avoid that.

I would also like to share my thoughts about your original article, The remnants of the Paint it Black movement, peeling paint and a promise of change. While your opinion is valid, I do not think that your analysis was formed with knowledge of the situation. I also do not think that this article should have been published under the News section, but rather under the Opinion section. One key concept that I believe you are overlooking is the importance of the #PaintItBlack movement. This movement was started by students who were hurting and who were angry. Students, mainly first-years, who were infuriated with the injustice around them and the lack of response from the campus community led this movement. They had the idea to paint Painted Street black. They proposed the idea to Student Senate. They led–and continue to lead–conversations about changing our campus’ response to acts and systems of hatred. This movement is about change through engagement. The organizers behind the #PaintItBlack movement are the bravest students that Drake University has seen in a long time.

Painting Painted Street black was a brilliant idea, because it forced our campus community to come to terms with what had happened. It disrupted our patterns of living and interacting and brought to light the issues that students of color face each and every day. Painting Painted Street black meant so much more than just the action of painting the street. It meant that our entire campus community–including students, faculty and staff–participated in the conversations around injustice. It meant that Drake University administrators recognized and legitimized the movement (even though the students were more than legitimate in the work that they did). The #PaintItBlack movement was transformational and created history not just at Drake but around the state and country. That’s why I was so disappointed to read your article that watered the meaning of the #PaintItBlack movement down to solely the state of Painted Street.

I want to be clear when I say that the current condition of Painted Street is in no way the fault of any student, faculty or staff member of the #PaintItBlack movement. The process by which we use to paint the street has only ever been used in the month of April. The importance of the movement and the conversations happening on campus increased the collective desire to paint Painted Street black. To tell the students behind the #PaintItBlack movement to wait until weather conditions were more desirable would have been, frankly, incredibly disrespectful and ignorant. Those students deserved to be listened to, and we heard them. The painting was planned by myself along with the Student Senate Executive Officers, the Unity Roundtable Co-Presidents, the Assistant Dean of Students, the Assistant Director of Student Activities and Organizations, the Dean of Students, Drake Facilities, Planning & Management and, most importantly, the leaders of the #PaintItBlack movement. We recognized from the beginning that we were painting Painted Street in undesirable conditions. Yet the work of the #PaintItBlack movement was so powerful and supported that we decided to paint the street. To me, the response from the campus community meant so much more than a section of concrete which would inevitably peel and be painted over come April. The #PaintItBlack movement and the change it brought means more to Drake University than Painted Street ever could.

You can critique the state of Painted Street, but I ask that you do not continue to use it to undermine the efforts of students of color on this campus.

Sincerely,

Giada Morresi

Vice President of Student Activities, Drake University Student Senate.

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