Students Take a Stand for Change

Story by Rebekah Carter

Photos by Brittney Matthews

“Black Lives Matter means simply that my life and the lives of other people that look like me matter,” said Spring senior Lexy Bogney, president of Baylors NAACP chapter. “If you replace the word Black in this statement and put the name of any other Black person, you are establishing that their life matters, regardless of the circumstance. It is not diminishing the lives of others, only asserting that our lives matter as well.”

The Black Lives Matter movement, founded in 2013, is a social justice movement fighting against police brutality. On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis native George Floyd was killed when a police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck and suffocated him to death. His death has since then sparked a series of protests, rallies and demonstrations across the United States. 

Across college campuses, students are rallying behind the BLM movement to ensure that their voices are heard. The movement progressed further after Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police after officers raided the wrong house. The grand jury released the verdict for Taylor’s trial on Sept. 24, indicting the officer held responsible for the raid on only endangerment charges. Baylor students then held a series of demonstrations to voice their opinions and urge students to call their congressmen. 

Baylor athletes walk along University Parks Drive Monday evening protesting social injustice.

“Student voices matter because it is how our generation can demonstrate that we desire equality for all in this country. When students participate and speak up, it makes students from this oppressed community feel safer and valued in academic spaces,” Tyler senior Morgan Koziol said.

As students continue to utilize their social media platforms, college campuses have become a hub for activism. Students have found creative ways to make their voices heard, from hosting memorials on campus, creating Instagram pages or holding demonstrations at the Waco Suspension Bridge. 

“Since Black Lives Matter is a movement and not a specific entity, involvement can start with simply educating yourself and others about the different issues that may plague the Black community,” Bogney said. “Also, by listening to other Black peers, learning of their experiences and hearing their perspectives… we are not a group that shares a single experience.”

Across college campuses, administrators are continuing to work together to create a more inclusive environment for students of color. In response to the BLM movement at Baylor President Linda Livingston released a statement on May 29 saying, “My heart is broken as I join with our Baylor students, faculty, staff and alumni in deep grief and prayer over the pain, fear, anger and injustice caused by disturbing events of racism and violence in our nation.” Livingstone also elaborated on how Baylor is working with others in tandem with the BLM movement. “Today, I joined my Big 12 Conference colleagues in releasing a statement underscoring the Big 12’s core commitment of fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect in our campus communities and how acts of racism and violence, no matter their origin or target, contradict this core commitment.”

Baylor students have also continued to use their voices. Aurora, Colo., junior Sam Onilenla encourages his peers to keep fighting the good fight. “For me, I’ve been going since the summer since George Floyd and have been on the gas pedal since. I get down sometimes, but God calls us to be greater than we can see ourselves.” 

 Onilenla further encourages others by stating, “So, to all my people of color, keep fighting. Keep protesting, not only for the lives here in the U.S., but lives in Africa. Black Lives Matter is universal. We cannot overlook or undermine anyone’s situation because it is not happening in our own homes. That is simply ignorance, and we are better than that. We are called to change the world, and it starts by reaching out and helping others.”

Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old African American woman studying to become a paramedic when she was fatally shot by police in Louisville, Ky., after white police officers entered the wrong house. 

Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old African American boy who was fatally shot by Timothy Loehmann, a 26-year-old police officer, in Cleveland. Rice was carrying a toy gun. He was shot immediately upon police arrival. 

George Floyd was an African American man who was killed by police officer, Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. His last words were, “I can’t breathe.”