As the country continues to hear stories of black men and women facing injustice, students at the University have decided to host their own protests to make their statement. Recently, The Pace Press had the chance to speak with the Dean of Students, Marijo Russell-O’Grady and student activist, Sean Green. Both parties were able to speak about how Pace and the students are fighting these injustices in their own turf.
Dean O’Grady was able to explain to us how the University tries to encourage students, staff and faculty to open up the conversation of diversity and inclusivity. As Dean O’Grady said, the university, “is concerned about all lives… in particular [they] are concerned about what is happening across the nation.” Through leadership training with the faculty and orientation session that focus on diversity, health and wellness and sexual assault, the University hopes to encourage everyone to discuss the issues.
The university has taken optional climate surveys in 2010, 2013 and 2016 to gauge how students feel. Overall there has been a positive change for students’ of color with their experiences at the University but there is still much left to do to improve.
On the student side, we were able to speak to Green, who is a Senior Performing Arts major and student activist. Green put together a silent protest that was held in front of the University and had students speak on behalf of their cause. The petition, as Green describes, started off as a small movement that became bigger.
“The petition originally started off as just a way to get a Black Lives Matter Banner outside of Pace Performing Arts and from that it kinda turned into something a little bigger. It turned into not only do we need a banner, we want full support and acknowledgement that black lives matter on [the University’s] campus….that [the University] is in full support and is expressing that support and is behind us.” This question led Green to wonder how they could make sure that they didn’t lose focus on the Performing Arts program before branching out as a university wide movement.
So far, Green has received support from the people around him. The director of his program along with Wayne Petro and Jorge Cacheiro have given him the space to speak out and have extended assistance, if needed.
Green understands that his new platform gives him a lot of power to lead the discussion in a positive way. “Now that I put myself in this position….what do I actually want and what do I actually need so now…my mission is to not only empower the student body to speak out, but also to create safe spaces for people to speak. Last week, I asked Micailah Lockhart…to sing Amazing Grace to open the demonstration, and that just gave everyone a really good feel about what we were doing….the point of the organization was to show that we all needed each other.”
The organization’s mission is to protest the loss of Black Lives that happens often in our country and they hope to make others understand that this movement is beneficial to everyone. As Green stated, “Black Lives Matter is not a black people issue….it affects me, my family, my friends, my friends’ families because it shouldn’t take so many deaths and it shouldn’t have to take a death that is directly related to you…for you to step up and say that black lives matter.”
Fortunately the students protesting along with Green haven’t had any backlash, but Green hopes that there was some because he understands that those who are silent can be some of the most dangerous to him and other students.
Green hopes that his organization can be a voice for those who may not be able to speak up or who aren’t heard. But he does wish that this voice could spread to his professors. Green feels that the faculty could have mandatory training focused on Black Lives Matter and that it would be beneficial for the conversations about what’s happening in the world to be brought into the classroom setting. Furthermore, Green wants other students to also have their classes to include more diversity training, possibly within their University 101 class or in their area-of-knowledge courses.
From his message, Green requests that, “If anyone is getting anything from who I am and what I want to do, I want people to understand that the topics of race and diversity and systemic racism should be important to all of us.”