UIS students discuss "Black Lives Matter"

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Three University of Illinois Springfield students discussed their thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement through presentations, poetry and prose during a symposium Monday evening.

The students were finalists in an essay contest sponsored by the university’s Diversity Office. A fourth finalist did not attend. In the contest, students who are black were asked to answer the question “As a member of the Black community, what does “Black Lives Matter” mean to you?” while students who are not black were asked “What does the “Black Lives Matter” movement mean to you as a more informed ally that is not Black and African-American?”

The finalists were able to present their essays through slide presentations, spoken word poetry or other methods.

One finalist, Rashad Foster, delivered a poem which, in part, described his youth in Chicago and his fear of both crime and police.

As a black, teenage male at the age of 19 who used to walk through the ‘hood, watching my back for those up to no good, now I walk through the ‘hood watching for those up to no good, and when in doubt, can't call the cops because I might get the click-clack … right through the cloth of this burgundy hood,” Foster read.

Later, Foster answered a question from an audience member about the common critique of Black Lives Matter that “all lives matter.”

“All lives do matter, but Black Lives Matter is a personal movement for the Black Community to show how we are being treated or how we are dealing with social injustice,” Foster said.

Another finalist, Grace Latimore, delivered a speech about her fears for her younger brother.

“He’s seen playgrounds bulldozed for parking lots and classrooms that are over-filled to get students ready for a prison system that’s just bursting at the seams,” Latimore said. “They believe he is violent, and he turns to me and wonders why I get so worked up when he wants to ride his bike to Walgreens just a few blocks away, and I want to cup his face like his cheeks are pages from the Old Testament and say ‘Brother, it’s not your leaving that I am afraid of, it’s the uncertainty of your return.”

In a group discussion at the end of the symposium, Latimore discussed the anger associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“You couldn’t have shot my brother and let him lie in the street for hours and not expect me to get upset,” Latimore said. “You can’t do that to a community of people over and over again and not expect them to respond.”

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