Black Lives Matter movement petitions Augustana community


Senior Ladonna Miller collects signatures for a petition of solidarity. Photo by LuAnna Gerdemann.

Approximately 20 students will be petitioning the Augustana community for the support of students of color in the Gerber Center all day on Wednesday. As of 8:30 a.m., the group has collected 216 signatures after starting petitions at 7 a.m.
One of the petitioners, first-year Kayla Butler, said she decided join the movement due to microaggressions that occur daily on campus. Microaggressions are slight yet subtle gestures of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc.
“I experience microaggressions like nobody’s business,” said Butler.
Butler said she had a rock thrown at her outside of Westerlin around 1 a.m. on Sunday night. After snickering, the men quickly followed her into Westerlin and went to a different wing. Another instance was when she went to a professor to discuss that field of study, and the professor referred her to black professor in a different department.
“He felt that I would make a connection with him just because he’s black,” said Butler.
Co-organizer Ladonna Miller said she has experienced similar microaggressions in the past few weeks and wanted to get involved with the petition in order to address these microaggressions while also standing in solidarity with other colleges that have held similar Black Lives Matter movements.
“I have a class where the professor used the rhetoric ‘who was disturbed by the Black Lives Matter movement from their Black Friday shopping?’ a few weeks ago,” said Miller. “So it was painstaking for me when she came in on Monday and asked that.”
Miller said she also has been told by people the petitioners are approaching that “they would just throw the paper away.”
Co-organizer Carolyn Muller said the driving force behind the demonstration are those who participated in last year’s demonstration in order to confront racist attitudes and to intersectionally support black lives. She said the petition idea was a community-based effort and a reflection on last year’s protest. She said the group received criticism for last year’s protest since the community found the demonstration difficult to access and understand, so the group decided to do something that would ease in a topic that can be considered controversial.
“I think the Blacks Lives Matter movement is the most important social justice cause of our time,” said Muller. “Obviously, I’m not a black person, but I think it goes without saying that black people are people, and our country, and the world in general, has a lot of anti-blackness that we have to collectively work through, and a lot of people are unwilling to recognize that that’s work that needs to be done.”
She said society still has to confront racist attitudes that shaped the U.S.’s history.
“We wouldn’t have the United States of America if we hadn’t exploited black people for slave labor at its inception,” said Muller. “It isn’t the only important social cause in 2015, but it’s at the top of my list.”
According to student volunteers, administrators such as Dean Campbell and Faculty such as sociology professor Dr. Paul Croll have also signed the petition.
Update: After the protest concluded, 1,023 students, faculty, and staff had signed the petition, which is approximately 40 percent of the student body.
Concluding the protest, Muller, who remained in the Brew for a majority of the protest said, “This was a success. However, despite being way different from last year we were still accused of being too aggressive and disruptive. SGA (Student Government Association) claims to be waiting to help us with open arms but their reactive stance to helping students is not impressive. We did not elect them for them to sit around and wait for us to come to them. we elected them to be proactive champions of the student body. They have had our last proposal for a year and have, to my knowledge, done nothing visible with it to help address those demands.”
Muller, who participated in last year’s protests hopes that the campus will move forward, especially considering the number of signatures collected.
After hearing of the demonstration, SGA provided the following statement:
“Student Government Association fully supports the Black Lives Matter movement. We always welcome collaboration with any and all groups that help improve campus culture,” said David Sommers, SGA president. “I believe the protest was very respectful. Also I value the voice and courage my fellow students showed today by standing up for what they believe in. Student government is here to listen, help and support all clubs, groups, and organizations.”
Moving forward, the signatures will be presented to the administration and a proposal submitted at a later date.
“In spite of our frustrations we continue to look forward to how SGA will step up and work with us to make campus less racist. we look forward to a transparent, point by point response to last year’s protest demands from the administration as well in the wake of over 1,000 Augustana community members calling for them to do so and to make the campus less racist,” said Muller.
An official statement by the protest group will be issued at a later date.