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Earlier this month, Equality and Justice partnered with the Honor’s Student Council, the MLK Scholars, and the University Library Associations to host an event called How Hip Hop Taught a Kid from Kentucky What an Ally Should Be. In this event, Dr. Mickey Hess spoke with our own Dr. Kaila Story about his life growing up in a predominantly white community in Kentucky. He talked about coming to Louisville and realizing what white privilege is. He shared his journey of learning how to combat active and passive racist comments from people back home and transitioning from a casual hip-hop fan to a hip-hop scholar who actively teaches allyship. The event was an open and honest conversation about the nature of white allyship and how it can easily become cringy and destructive if allies are not informed and intentional. As an ally, the event forced me to hold a mirror to my own actions and I am grateful for the tools that it gave me.
Fast forward to two weeks later as I scrolled through Instagram and saw that a girl from my high school posted a picture from a party with a background that said “Frat Lives Matter.” I could not keep scrolling. I had gone to school with this girl from middle school until senior year of high-school. I would not have characterized us as good friends, but we were close acquaintances. I don’t know what the theme of the party was, or what lead her to be there that night. However, the fact remains that she saw that banner and without recognizing an issue with it, took a picture.
I screenshotted the photo and tried to find a way to respond. I knew that as clever as the primarily white boys of the fraternity at her school may be, this could not have been the first time the phrase was used. I googled it and sure enough, there were several new stories from two years ago when the Kappa Sigma fraternity of UConn emblazoned “Frat Lives Matter” on the spirit rock of their school after 6 of their brothers were arrested. The men had illegally served alcohol to a 19-year-old female student who was killed after drunkenly wandering into traffic on the way home from the frat’s party. The message was painted on February 26th, 2017, the fifth anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death.
I don’t know if the men who hosted the party my friend posted about were aware of this history, but that doesn’t matter. The Black Lives Matter movement was started to speak out against years of violence against the black community by the state and vigilantes. White men who have the means to join a fraternity have no reason to mock a movement with such a powerful and important message, a message that was not created for them. That banner sends out two messages. First, the men of that fraternity are ignorant to what Black Lives Matter stands for. Second, that there were several people outside of the frat that attended the party despite its message of ignorance and indifference. Both of these truths are unacceptable in 2019. It is never okay to make a joke of injustice against marginalized groups, and there is nothing lighthearted about posting photos of these mockeries. If you are an ally of the black community only sometime, then you are not an ally at all. I dm’d the girl who posted the photo with a link to the news story about the original “Frat Lives Matter” incident and asked her to consider removing the post. I have not yet received a response, but I am hopeful that we can have a meaningful conversation about the true implications of that banner and it will lead to her post and the banner being removed.
As you all know, the Equality and Justice committee works hard at promoting equality on the University of Louisville campus. We stand firm in the belief that everyone should feel comfortable in their skin and be aware of their identity. So, preparing events that support the uniqueness of all individuals is a way in which we spread our love for all individuals on this campus.
This year we have worked hard to promote our This is America series in hopes to bring together all different cultures and identities in order to discuss important issues in our community. We began our This is America series by discussing the criminal justice system and what improvements we need to make in order to ensure justice. We discussed race inequality in the criminal justice system as well as poverty and the impact that poverty plays in the criminal justice system.
Our part 2 of This is America was about Socio-economic classes and the impact that poverty has on our community. We decided to have a panel of professional individuals that deal with improving impoverished areas in our community.
The part 3 to the This is America series was the final series that was focused on Identity. With the University of Louisville being such a big campus with many different cultures and identities, we felt that it was important to discuss the ways in which we can connect and also respect each others differences. This event included tables with different activities and speakers that discussed the importance of celebrating all the different identities in our community. This event was a success as it brought many different Identities together and gave individuals the chance to express their identities as well as become more comfortable with others.
Equality and Justice Committee Member (18-19)
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We are looking for: Visual Artists / Graphic Designers (Prints Only. Your work will be displayed on a wall), Poets, Spoken word Artists, & Singers/Musicians
If you have any questions about what art can be submitted or the event, please contact email@example.com!
Thank you for checking in with the Equality and Justice committee. We have been working hard to promote social justice and further equality in the campus and local community. Our This is America series is well on the way! Thank you to everyone who attended the first installment (And Justice for All?). The event was everything that we imagined; we had some great conversation about the justice system in America, its issues, and how we as students can help. Our next This is America event will be October 18th from 6:30 to 8:00 pm in Bigelow Hall! We will be discussing how poverty affects different identity groups in unique and difficult ways. There will be free hors devours from Common Kitchen, a local business that is staffed primarily by immigrants and refugees seeking certification to work in commercial kitchens in the US.
Helping to plan and carry out the This is America series is not the only way that you can join us in bettering our community! We also serve with the Iroquois Public Library every Saturday from 3 to 4 pm by acting as members of their English Conversation Club. The ECC is a program that allows proficient English speakers and people who are currently learning English to spend time together in a fun and family friendly environment! Although America does not declare an official language, individuals without English proficiency and literacy are often faced with discriminatory practices. These practices place undue difficulty on individuals when they try to fulfill simple American rights such as find equal educational opportunities, speak for themselves in court and become employed in positions that they are qualified for. Solutions to this issue go much deeper than engaging in programs like ECC, but this is a great way for English speakers to learn more about the issue from people who experience it in their everyday lives and for people practicing their English to find community and learn.
If you are interested in volunteering with us, feel free to show up at 601 W Woodlawn Ave, Louisville, KY 40215 or arrange a carpool with us by sending one of our directors an email! Also, if you would like to see even more of what the Equality and Justice committee is up to, join us at our committee meetings that happen every Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 pm in SAC W303! We hope to serve, grow, and fight for Equality and Justice with you soon!
The Equality and Justice Committee
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Equality and Justice embodies the dedication to achieve community-, campus-, and nation-wide social equality and justice through intriguing events and excellent service.
Co-Director: Elayne Harrington
Co-Director: Moyo Olayemi