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Black Solidarity Day rally examines notions of blackness, diversity

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 08:11


Kyra Sturgill / The Tufts Daily

Monday’s rally centered on race and identity issues.

Members of the Tufts community gathered on the Mayer Campus Center’s lower patio Monday to celebrate Black Solidarity Day with a rally organized by the Pan−African Alliance. The event brought together black Tufts students, their advocates and interested passers−by, as well as guest speakers like famed blogger, poet, scholar and author Brandon Lacy Campos.

“Blackness needs a radical redefinition,” Campos told the audience in his keynote address, which preceded student speeches.

The rally, which dealt with identity and race−related issues nationally and at Tufts, departed notably from the Black Solidarity Day events of the past two years, during which speakers focused on the decades−old demand that the university create an Africana studies major.

After last year’s rally, approximately 60 students marched from the Campus Center to hold a sit−in at Dean of Arts and Sciences Joanne Berger−Sweeney’s office. There, they worked to convince her and other high−level administrators to enter negotiations that led to the debut of the major this semester.

Rally organizer Jameelah Morris, a senior, said in her speech that the Africana studies major and annual events like the rally are stepping stones in a long road.

“We need to sustain these seeds and allow them to grow,” she said.

Student a cappella groups Essence and S−Factor provided a soundtrack to the event with renditions of the gospel songs “Something ‘Bout the Spirit of Jesus” and “One More Time.” Performers shared histories, personal stories and motivational words.

Logan Cotton, a senior who helped organize the event, said bringing everyone together to appreciate the commonalities in the black experience was an attempt to connect the black community with the Tufts community as a whole.

David Gertner, a senior who attended the event, described the high energy at the rally.

“I was pleasantly surprised with not only the incredible turnout, but also the great encouragement and agreement I saw among the audience,” he said. “I saw smiles and heard loud, incessant cheers.”

According to Morris, the purpose of the event was to express the meaning and the application of blackness. During the rally, Campos aimed to redefine the word, while senior Tabias Wilson provided the history behind it and Morris expressed her desire to sustain historical education.

In his speech, Campos called for the reshaping of institutions that contribute to the oppression of people of color.

“Today, we have no laws or institutions that force us to segregate or to behave in a certain way — we do it all on our own,” he said. “We need to break the chains ourselves.”

The Campus Center rally on Monday was followed by a dinner reception and open microphone in the Cabot Intercultural Center. —Martha Shanahan contributed reporting to this article.

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