Kristen Storms, co-founder of the Black Student Union, stood in front of a packed Fishbowl the night of November 5 to announce the BSU’s next initiative: a protest of Soka Fest.
Recent student unrest over non-black students’ use of the n-word has brought long-held frustrations over unaddressed racism to a head. The protest targets Soka Fest, an all-campus celebration, because the student group wants to challenge the “aesthetic of Soka Fest,” said Storms, which is supposed to demonstrate school unity. The event is scheduled for Saturday.
In a declaration issued by BSU, the union explains their reason for protesting Soka Fest:
“Soka Festival, an annual event to celebrate SUA and more specifically the student body culture, is the further sustension of perverse, fetishized terms such as ‘diversity,’ ‘peace,’ and ‘global citizenship.’ The pain and violence upon our Black Bodies by this institution is living evidence that Soka’s foundational pursuants are false and instead perpetuate the marginalization of Black students and other students of color.” Read their full declaration, below.
“We want it to be very clear why we’re mobilizing, why we’re protesting,” Storms said.
The protest will begin alongside the usual Soka Fest routine, starting outside the cafeteria. However, those protesting will wear black and carry posters that complete the phrase “I’m protesting Soka Fest because…” The protestors will march silently to the gym and place their poster in the bleachers where they would usually sit.
After leaving the gym, the BSU will host an “alternative space” in the Grand Reading Room to provide further education on racism and its impact on black students and students of color. The screening will feature an episode of the TV show “Dear White People” as well as the full-length film “13th.” The screening will run from 7:30-10:30 p.m. immediately after the protest in the gym.
The screening is designed to give the Black Student Union and its allies in Students of Color Coalition a break. In the past week, both student organizations have organized several meetings to address the use of the n-word by non-black students as well as air other concerns about racism on campus.
“We’re sick of pouring our hearts out and educating,” Storms said.
The BSU encourages all students to participate in the protest. As they conclude in their declaration: “You are either with the BSU or against us.”
A Declaration of Black Humanity:
Dictated by the Trauma of SUA’s Black Student’s Bodies
By Black Student Union
The set of circumstances which predicated this declaration are a revealing of Soka’s hypocrisy, the student body who remain complicit within racial violence and oppression, and the SUA culture which sustains and thrives from the marginalization from our Black Bodies.
We as the Black students are done with being the diversity currency of this institution.
Unlike this institution’s and many others students’ conception of “dialogue”, the BSU utilize tangible action rather than confining our humanity to the passive inaction of words.
Soka Festival, an annual event to celebrate SUA and more specifically the student body culture, is the further sustension of perverse, fetishized terms such as “diversity” , “peace”, and “global citizenship”. The pain and violence upon our Black Bodies by this institution is living evidence that Soka’s foundational pursuants are false and instead perpetuate the marginalization of Black students and other students of color.
The BSU and its allies refuse to participate in an event that celebrates the falsehoods of SUA and perpetuates trauma on our bodies on this campus.
As we are consistently denied the space to express our Black humanity at SUA, we are no longer requesting for temporary dominion over Soka “dialogue”, but are carving out the space for ourselves. We will be hosting an event during Soka Fest within the Grand Reading Room to screen films that articulate facets of the Black experience.
Before the BSU event begins, Black students and allies will be wearing all black with signs displaying why they are not participating in Soka Fest. This march will take place during the “class marches” that occur every Soka Fest. Once arriving at the gym, we will place the signs in our respective class “sections” and then travel to the Grand Reading Room for the BSU event.
This Declaration of our Black Humanity and the process we have described for the protest is not up for debate, negotiations, or suggestions. You are either with the BSU or against us.