Several student organizations on campus are making efforts to rally support for the family of Michael Brown and show solidarity for people facing violence in Ferguson, Mo.
On Saturday, the National Pan-Hellenic Council invited students to take a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” photo on the Chapel steps, following many similar photos that have been taken in cities and college communities nationwide. The Duke event’s Facebook page promoted the gathering as a show of support for the people of Ferguson seeking justice.
“The purpose of the photo was to show solidarity with the non-violent protesters in Ferguson, the family of the late Michael Brown and with people all over the nation who experience injustice at the hands of police officers,” said NPHC president JT Ross, a junior, in an email Sunday night.
Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Mo. Aug. 9. Unrest has since broken out in the city, questioning the underlying circumstances of the incident and sparking conversation about police violence.
Ross added that the “Hands Up, Don't Shoot” photo is meant to challenge the notion that black skin implies a threat in America.
The Black Men’s Union released a video also titled “Hands Up, Don't Shoot” featuring short clips of Duke students lifting their hands and several images of newspaper headlines about the shootings of four unarmed black men in the past month—Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford and Brown.
Video by Duke Black Men's Union
“The members of BMU united under one cause to beg the question, 'How many more must die?'” said Jamal Edwards, a junior, BMU member and Black Student Alliance president, in an email Sunday. “As black men, it’s important to understand the history of police violence and brutality and to address situations going on in our own backyard.”
The Black Student Alliance has invited the Duke community to the “Speak Your Peace” event, a candle-lighting vigil to stand in solidarity with Ferguson through poetry, art, dialogue and brotherhood. The event will take place Monday, Aug. 25 at 8 p.m. on the Chapel steps. BSA also encouraged the Duke community to wear black on the first day of classes in honor of Brown’s funeral on Monday.
“The Black Student Alliance recognized that many students would return to Duke with heavy hearts and minds regarding the current situation in Ferguson,” Edwards wrote. “In response, we wanted to create a space where students can come together and express thoughts and reflections through poetry, monologues and songs.”
BSA’s Facebook page has shown continued support for Brown’s case, encouraging people to have a strong social media presence, donate to related funds and sign a petition for the “Mike Brown Law”—a regulation demanding that state, county and local police officers wear body cameras at all times.
Due to longstanding racial tensions in Ferguson, the shooting triggered aggressive forms of social unrest including protests, vandalism and violence. The shooting is now under an FBI-issued civil rights investigation, and Missouri's Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency in Ferguson following the protests.