Jessie Cheung, Contributing Photographer
More than a hundred students and community members gathered on Cross Campus on Sunday afternoon to take part in a rally and march in support of Black Lives Matter. After convening to hear speeches from New Haven Public Schools students, protesters streamed through downtown New Haven, chanting and taking up both lanes on Broadway and York Street, before returning to Cross Campus.
Organized by Mia Toledo-Navarro ’24, Joaquin Soto ’24 and Jade Villegas ’24, the event was created to “bring a sense of community to make everyone feel more welcome at Yale, and especially Black students,” according to Villegas.
“We don’t get to separate being Black and being a student,” Villegas said.
The event’s tagline, “Complacency 110,” pressed a critique against administrative and “student body complacency in racism and microaggressions.” It also trained a spotlight on the newest class at Yale, most of whom are being introduced to New Haven for the first time this semester.
Organizers wanted to bring attention to the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and raise awareness of the experiences of Black students — first years in particular — on campus and in New Haven at large.
“As a Black woman myself I want to feel comfortable wherever I go, and I want to make sure that the community at Yale also supports me,” said Arianna Cummings ’24, who was present at the protest.
Aderonke Adejare ‘24, who also attended, hoped that the demonstration and march would allow Yale students to become more “sensitive” to the experiences of Black students on campus.
Less than two months ago, Villegas arrived at Yale feeling “daunted” by her transition to college amid the pandemic. Little about Yale’s social scene felt comfortable to her, let alone familiar. Heated online conversations about race and this summer’s protests left some Black students in the class of 2024 GroupMe, including Villegas, feeling alienated from their peers months before they set foot on campus. And the pandemic has also limited her opportunities to explore New Haven — which, she maintained, Yale students should learn to engage with, not out of concern for their safety, but as someone’s home.
The large activist community in New York City has informed Villegas’ approach to organizing, she explained. There, she said, “people just show up and show out. It’s really beautiful. We don’t go there with a plan, we just enjoy what comes out of it.”
That was the spirit Villegas hoped to bring to Yale. Although the three organizers have each felt at times distanced from the Yale community, Villegas is determined to create spaces to “celebrate Black life instead of simply mourning loss.”
Chaz Carmon, president of Ice the Beef Youth — a local youth development organization — said that he was eager to support Yale organizers when they asked to collaborate for Sunday’s protest.
“When a 17-year-old [Yale] student calls and says we’re trying to organize and we have an issue that we’re fighting for and will Ice the Beef support them, we definitely will,” Carmon told the News. “Because the future is for our children and their voices do matter.”
During the march, Carmon led Yale students and community members in a series of chants. He also spoke about his organization, which gives youth in New Haven — including Yale students — support as they organize and speak out against racial injustice. Carmon helped Yale organizers get in touch with New Haven students involved in his organization who were willing to speak at Sunday’s protest and co-lead the march.
One of those students was Catherine Wicks, a 16-year-old NHPS student who called for ongoing social change in a speech to the demonstrators on Sunday.
“Justice should never be an idea for something we can only imagine,” Wicks said. “Justice is real.”
Wicks questioned the decline in the number of activists she perceived to be engaged in BLM protests following this summer’s nationwide protests.
Organizers also distributed free Black Lives Matter flags on Cross Campus, asking recipients to fly them from their street-facing dorm room windows.
“It’s not room decor,” said Toledo-Navarro. “We’re showing New Haven our support,
because things we do and will do here will change and impact New Haveners and Black people. We are working for them.”
The three organizers hope to continue organizing events like Sunday’s rally to celebrate the Black community and show support for local New Haven residents.
Ice the Beef Youth was founded in 2011.
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