Tuesday, April 29, 4:15 p.m.
A rally in Kogan Plaza Monday to support the black victim of a New York police shooting became an expression of discontent over campus media coverage and the treatment of black organizations at GW.
Dozens of students gathered, gave speeches and wore black to protest the recent acquittal of New York Police Department officers who shot Sean Bell more than 50 times after his bachelor party in 2006.
“We feel it is important to form a grassroots effort against the verdict and show student empowerment on a grand scale,” said senior Charles Basden, co-president of the Black Student Union.
Junior Gyawu Mahama said it is important for GW students to take a stand against Bell’s death.
“Nothing we can do will bring Sean Bell back, but we are here in a show of solidarity,” Mahama said in an interview.
Tim Miller, executive director of the Student Activities Center, stood among the crowd. Michael Tapscott, director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, gave a brief speech.
Tapscott said he was encouraged by the engagement of students in the current events.
“Anytime students are active and aware of national issues and contrast them with experiences in their own lives is brilliant,” he said after the event.
The student leaders also rallied students on other issues such as a poor treatment of black students on campus.
“We need to step up in leadership and not accept mediocrity,” junior and Student Association senator OG Oyiborhoro told the students. “One day a black student’s name is going to be on one of these buildings.”
Oyiborhoro, who ran for SA president last month, was taken off the ballot after he failed to attain signatures on authorized paper. He said Monday that he felt race played a role in the final outcome.
Speakers said they were unhappy that The Hatchet did not print an article about the Student Excellence Awards last week, where the BSU won best student organization for the first time in more than two decades. They also said an article about the SA in Monday’s issue of The Hatchet implied that black students impeded progress in the body.
“We need to take back campus even though we are the minority,” junior Richard Fowler said. “We need to get someone on the editorial board of The Hatchet.”
Eric Roper, The Hatchet’s editor in chief, said the article about the Excellence Awards was written by Thursday but not put online because of an oversight. It was placed online Monday afternoon.
“The SA story was a wrap-up of the year, and meant to reflect our coverage of student government,” Roper said of the other story. “They may disagree with what we highlighted throughout the year, but that’s a different conversation.”
The rally’s speakers encouraged the attendees to speak out against injustice when they see it and to discuss racism with their peers.
“The Black Student Union needs to do a better job about educating the majority students,” junior David Earl said afterwards. “White students are not always listening.”