From Mizzou to Cal: Why Black Graduate Students at UC Berkeley Support #ConcernedStudent1950
During the last three years, we have witnessed an enormous national recognition of Black student activism. Black students from historically white institutions, historically Black colleges and universities, community colleges, high schools, and all other levels of education have responded to anti-Blackness in all walks of life for centuries. Across the globe, from as far asSouth Africa to our neighbors in Seattle, Washington, we continue to reject and dismantle all forms of systemic oppression and anti-Blackness that we encounter in our personal, academic
and professional lives.
As the violent and hypervisible murders of Sandra Bland, Kayla Moore, Aiyana Stanley-Jones,Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and countless others lost to extra-judicial violence fill our consciousness, we are forced to act. We refuse the post-racial rhetoric that America produces to feel safe from it’s own violent history and from its continued reproduction of social and economic oppression. We refuse to accept the deficit narratives that Black folk deserve oppression and that Black folk are only to blame for the violence in our communities. We refuse to accept the implication that Black folk must be non-human and lift the weight of institutional barriers alone. We work on all fronts to dismantle white supremacist, capitalist, and heteropatriarchal culture that plagues our people both within and outside of educational contexts. We seek to heal intergenerational trauma in our communities and somber the violence against our kin that continues without adequate and appropriate state support. We believe Black lives matter wherever they are, and we believe that we have no option but to fight for our collective rights to exist as dignified human beings.
As graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley, and all across the country, we feel the consistent attacks against our character, our merit, our scholarship and our very existence. These institutions were not made for us in mind; though they were historically forced to open their doors to us, they continually remind us that our very existence within their walls is an assault to white power and hegemony. Our (Black) mentors are the ones forced to leave the university while the university continues to profit on the accomplishments of neglected mentees who also serve as national and international fellowship winners. The university steals our images and uses them to promulgate the myth of graduate diversity, despite the fact that we are often the only non-white people in our respective departments. Our funding is the first cut, our labor is always exploited, and our love for our work and our communities is the only thing that fuels a sometimes perilous journey into academe. Yet, ironically, our commitment to our communities is often the very first thing questioned as we pursue research and professionalization in our fields.
To our Mizzou family, we see you! We see Black (queer) women, central to organizing and leading this campaign, standing on the frontlines. We see Black football players refusing exploitation by a capitalist culture- a culture that profits from their physical toil, cheers “go team go” while on the field, but still calls them n**gers on campus. Jonathan Butler, one of the many leaders of this movement, is also a graduate student, and we all benefit from his fearlessness and dismissal of a pre-professional culture that violently silences graduate student activism. He personifies the phrase, “How far am I willing to go for freedom?” To our Mizzou family, we understand your work and we support your actions. You demonstrate what a Black united front looks like, and you demonstrate what it looks like when you can no longer take the insidious reproduction of oppression and silencing of Black pain. You demonstrate what it looks like when enough is actually enough.This, this reality, is why we stand in solidarity with our comrades at the University of Missouri. We love you, we support you, and we will do whatever it takes to assist you on your quest for freedom and social transformation.
It is true that our campuses are hostile. Hence, we must support each other in healing from the violence and trauma our institutions produce while simultaneously battling and transforming these same institutions. We realize that the threat of our “being free” is so great that we will undoubtedly experience a backlash from a society founded on white supremacy. That does not mean we should stop. We must be prepared to act, we must be ready to mobilize, and we must be ready to go on strike. We must be ready to do what is necessary to create freedom wherever we march our bodies and minds.We see you out there, and together, we gon’ be alright!
In Solidarity and Struggle:
The Black Graduate Student Association at UC Berkeley