By AUTUMN ROBERTSON
Student leaders at the University of Miami hosted an event on Sept. 3 that spread awareness of social injustices throughout America.
Inspired by the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., U Be the Change attempted to use the recent events that has taken place in Ferguson as a platform to shine light on the other injustices that American citizens face daily.
The event was co-sponsored by United Black Students and The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. U Be the Change not only featured speakers from United Black Students, but also featured speakers from UPride, International Justice Mission and The University of Miami Wesley Foundation.
The student in charge of the event was TeQuan Taylor, a junior economics major at the University of Miami and president of University of Miami’s United Black Students. He created the event at a program called Leadershape, a week-long pre-semester retreat for the leaders of the campus.
“My motivation was to create an inclusive event that addressed a serious issue,” Taylor said. “Multicultural Student Affairs and UPride helped make the event a reality by helping with the structure and providing feedback.”
U Be the Change took place on The Rock, the common ground outside of the University Center, at noon on a Wednesday. Although the event took place during classes, the turnout was great.
Jacob Rudolph, senior public advocacy major at UM and president of UPride, the undergraduate LGBTQ organization, said, “The event had well over 50 people and they all received it very well.”
Rudolph, also a participant at Leadershape, met with Tequan to co-sponsor the event.
“Tequan came up to me and asked ‘Hey! I know that you’re the UPride president and, even though this is about racial issues, I would like for you to speak anyway.’ It was a fantastic and teachable moment for the both of us because it was a great way to highlight another social injustice, LGBTQ violence. We really are the bridge to every minority because we intersect everywhere; we try to attach and work collectively to work together and raise our voices together,” Rudolph said.
The events in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, took place following the death of Mike Brown, an 18-year-old black un-armed student who was gunned down by the police during an arrest. The black population of Ferguson took to the streets to protest the death of Brown.
The protests soon turned violent with police arriving to the demonstration grounds in armored vehicles, shooting rubber bullets and spraying tear gas as the protesters. Word quickly spread the protests due to social media, and people began to show their support by holding synonymous protests and spreading their awareness with the hashtag “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
“I think that it’s pretty sad,” Taylor said about the events in Ferguson. “But everything that is happening is understandable. People are simply angry and are fighting for a change.”
Mikayla Farr, sophomore public relations major, participated in U Be the Change.
“I thought the event went great, for the parts that I saw,” she said.
“The International Justice Mission representative, David Beltran, was good at getting the crowd engaged on the slavery while still remembering to include how UM students can get involved with such a major social justice issue”.
Farr mentioned how the event challenged students to get involved in their own way.
“I know a lot of times with events like this,” she said, “speakers spend so much time acknowledging the issue, which people do all the time, but fail to recognize how students can make an impact on improving the issue,” Farr stated.
Taylor and Rudolph wanted the students to be as interactive as possible. The speakers made sure that the audience participated vocally and physically, and during the event, students had the opportunity to sign a banner that showed their pledge for making a change.
“Ultimately, I just want people to understand what happened and put what happened into context for the larger picture,” Taylor said. “I just want to increase social awareness and get the point across.”
“It is one thing to understand someone’s struggles and the privilege that you have been given and it is another thing to recognize that privilege, act on it, and make a difference,” Rudolph said. “We have won when we are one.”