A mass of students, standing or kneeling on the steps outside of Sterling Memorial Library yesterday afternoon, raised its arms in solidarity with Michael Brown, whose death still vibrates in communities all over the country.
This gesture, held by a crowd of nearly 200 members of the Yale community for a group photo, is supposed to mimic the stance that Brown had taken to convey that he was unarmed when he was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Many demonstrations, rallies and group photos similar to the one taken yesterday have adopted the gesture as a symbol of resistance and opposition to police brutality and violence, according to a statement emailed to the News by the Black Student Alliance at Yale.
“We want this photo to represent our choice to stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson in opposition to the epidemic of racialized police brutality in this nation that has taken the lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and many more black people,” the statement read. “It also represents our commitment to listen to the voices of those most affected by this issue, and to be active participants in the ongoing struggle to secure the right to safety for all Americans.”
The BSAY board said that as discussions about the events in Ferguson decrease, the photo is meant to ensure that the conversation does not end. BSAY intends to circulate the photos on Facebook, other social media platforms and the attending groups’ respective websites, while also distributing it among the members of each group.
Groups represented in the photo include the Black Women’s Coalition, MECHA de Yale, the Yale African Students Association, Sigma Phi Epsilon and many others. The BSAY board and other students interviewed said the event was very much a collaborative effort, not organized by BSAY or any other singular group, but done as a way to unite the black community at Yale. However, members of other communities were also invited to the event, they added.
Attendees of the photo shoot interviewed spoke of the importance of the demonstration and others like it.
Yale College Assistant Dean and Afro-American Cultural Center Director Rodney Cohen said he participated in the photo to support the student initiative, but also to encourage students to continue to be thoughtful of issues that exist outside of themselves. He said the effort would help student participants to become better “global citizens.”
“This simple [“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”] chant has served as the rallying mantra uniting protesters not only in Ferguson, Mo., but also it has served to unite people wanting to join this movement occurring across the country,” said Will Searcy ’16, president of the Black Men’s Union, in an email. “We fully understand that although we are over 1,000 miles away from the epicenter of the unrest, the seismic waves of the injustice can still be felt here in New Haven — even on Yale’s campus.”
Hannah Greene ’18 said she felt obligated to be a part of the group photo because she identified as an African American. She said she was impressed with the turnout, and following the event, she is excited to get involved in some of the participating groups.
Brown’s shooting is currently being investigated by a country grand jury.