For the past several hours I have been debating about how I was going to organize this piece… because it is much different from what I am normally writing about. Usually I am focused on myself and what I am dealing with, but this time it’s about me as well as everybody else. It’s about my brothers and sisters, my friends, the family I have consciously chosen. It’s about a few issues that reach every corner of the Earth and all too often are not handled with the care they deserve.
**I have yet to explicitly state where I live or attend school but for the sake of telling this story fully and completely, the institutions involved will not remain nameless. There are enough people being paid to protect them, and more people protecting them for free.. I will not be one of them.
On Thursday, August 24th, 2017, a group of students (myself included) from Spelman College and Morehouse College met on Clark Atlanta University’s campus (the promenade) to discuss the recent assaults against women that have taken place on Morehouse’s campus as well as the culture that contributes to allowing these assaults to continue happening with little to no repercussions. Granted, the subject alone brings in a lot of emotion. We did get loud and some would consider our demeanor to have been “rowdy”. However, at no point did we as students escalate the situation to a point where it was necessary to be treated the way we were.
Clark Atlanta University’s campus police asked us to leave “since [we] can’t act right” and everyone began to get up and collect whatever they may have brought with them so we could all leave as a group. At some point two officers turned into three or four and a student from Spelman College, Joi Stewart, was being singled out and the campus police felt the need to try to take her away from the group. A student from Morehouse College, Jauan Durbin, tried to explain to them that he was going to take her home and everything would be fine but they needed to let us walk away peacefully. Instead of allowing us to leave, like they instructed us to, they proceeded to chase both Joi and Jauan; drawing batons, mace and tasers out on them. One of the officers was blocking the way back to Spelman with his mace, telling the crowd to “walk up on [him] again”. Another officer ended up chasing a student across the grass. The other two officers were manhandling, assaulting, threatening and speaking highly aggressively toward Joi and Jauan. Both students were eventually let go, but not before the officers caused Jauan to have a concussion and Joi to have a dislocated shoulder.
No one was charged with a crime but several students heard conversation between the officers about taking Joi to jail, simply because she was exercising her right to freedom of speech.
The irony of the situation is in the fact that CAU’s black campus police assaulted black students at a black school and the two students who sustained the most injury are both survivors of sexual violence themselves.
They were able to quickly respond to a call about us being loud and “rowdy” but when someone is truly in danger these people are nowhere to be found. Students have gotten robbed at gunpoint and sexually violated on the very promenade we were asked to leave from and in those instances no one is responding quickly enough to protect the victim.
So just in case you missed it… This is the result of campus officials as well as our “brothers and sisters” allowing violence against women and queer people.
I want to be very clear on the fact that this situation is not isolated. Somebody somewhere is being assaulted and/or abused by someone who is supposed to love, support, and protect them right now.
I cannot speak for the emotions of my peers but I am willing to bet the way I felt in the moment and how I feel now can be applied to everyone who bore witness to the assault… I cannot even begin to imagine how the students who were assaulted felt.
Seeing an assault in person, involving people you know and love, is so much different from simply watching a video on twitter. Feeling completely helpless because you know this is wrong but you can’t pull your friends away from the officers without making everything 10x worse is devastating. Nothing can replicate the fear that runs through you when you know how these things end and it only takes one false move for a bad situation to become the worst possible situation. I am thanking God/the universe/my ancestors that no one’s life was taken and that the physical injuries sustained did not put anyone in critical condition.
I want to give a shoutout to everyone who was there to engage and make progress, not to just take up space or be nosy once the situation escalated. You know who you are. I also want to especially thank my Spelman sister and my Morehouse brother for being the soldiers. You both looked death in the face and made it out alive. I am inspired by your courage and the love for our community you displayed by being willing to be an example, even if you did not know you were making that choice.
For me, the silver lining in all of this is that I now remember what I’m fighting for. I know why it is necessary for me to stand in my truth and never back down. I know why I need to wake up everyday and be intentional about healing myself so I can help others heal. I know why I need to be in a position to impact the masses…. because this system they have built up could kill me, physically or even emotionally, at any time.
I pray that you all are impacted as well. What are we here for if we’re not protecting and supporting each other?