Students around the country staged a #HandsUpWalkOut on the day Michael Brown was laid to rest. Brown would have started his freshman year at a local trade college on Aug 9 had he not been shot six times by police officer Darren Wilson. Brown was autopsied thrice before his funeral.
Activists from Freedom Side, Dream Defenders, and Hands Up United coordinated the event to show solidarity with the Brown family and others slain by police. According to a #HandsUpWalkOut action toolkit available on HandsUpUnited.org, the walkouts are not protests or rallies, but “an event to mourn the loss of community members.” Organizers supplied a list of suggested post-walkout activities, such as reading names of the deceased, asking participants to voice their feelings and inquire about the emotional well-being of fellow students, and singing of “freedom songs.”
The original to action originated from the youth of Ferguson, Missouri, who received many inquires about how outsiders can show their support. It was decided that actions in communities all over the country would best serve the memory of Brown and the spirit of the movement.
“I was really motivated to stand in solidarity with the Brown family and the people in Ferguson,” said Emelia Armstead, one of the organizers of Syracuse University’s walkout. The senior contacted the executive group of SU’s Juvenile Urban Multicultural Program (JUMP) to help with the walkout after learning about the event on Twitter. “I wanted to pay respect, but also come away with some actionable goals.”
Armstead works with JUMP, an organization that seeks to lower the dropout rates of students of color while encouraging them to seek higher education through mentorship. ” It’s significant that this was a call on college students. Our generation’s activism is something new. We have to be active both on the ground and online.” She hopes the youth JUMP works will be inspired seeing the type of influence college students can have.
SU had its first day of classes during the walkout which had over 100 participants. Students and faculty gathered in Hendricks Chapel, which has been a spiritual and moral center of the campus for over 70 years, a location Armstead hoped enabled a reflective atmosphere respectful of the wishes of Michael Brown, Sr.
“This was not a protest, we needed to pay respect, be quiet, peaceful and walk away with purpose,” she explained. Armstead and the other organizers collected suggestions from participants of actions they can put into practice after the vigil. “We had a great discussion,” she said. Examples of suggestions included calling attention to biased microagressions, talking about implicit racism and authority figures, and learning what rights citizens have.
“We need to be knowledgeable of our rights, like filming encounters with the police, which is something we all have the right to do.” Armstead also believes in the importance of being active in local elections and understanding the structure of local government. The senior was looking forward to the faculty reaction to the walkout, hoping instructors incorporate the events of the last few weeks into their lessons and encourage students to think critically and be active both on campus and in their local communities. One faculty member who spoke at the vigil stressed the importance of students using all outlets available to them, emphasizing that “hashtag activism is real and important.”
Armstead is preparing for more days of action and plans to continue to show support and solidarity to the people of Ferguson. There were 27 registered walkouts planned for Aug 25 on campuses across the country. Dozens more took place with many still being planned in the coming weeks as classes begin.
For more information on you can follow the hashtag #HandsUpWalkout.
Originally posted on TWIB.FM