Elevating Black voices in 2021

Newswire photos by Erik Maahs
The above collage pulls together photographs taken from the Speak Up XU protest, a local Cincinnati protest, the COBRA takeover of SLAB and the sit-in at Gallagher Student Center
BY HEATHER GAST AND ALEX BUDZYNSKI, editor-in-chief and managing editor

Students of color at Xavier have consistently had to fight more to have less. Though this burden has been passed down for decades, Black students have grown more insistent in their collective activism on campus alongside the national Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests last year.

As a newspaper of primarily White students, we see it as our duty to elevate the work of Black students as doing our part to sustain their momentum. Keeping their work in the conversation of campus is the least we feel we can do. As such, Newswire, intentionally featured content surrounding anti-racism work by students, the BLM movement or concerns about racial relations in America in each paper last semester.

In prominent news outlets, concerns over inequity like the ones raised by Xavier students rise to the surface and then immediately die away by the next news cycle. As a university, it is our collective responsibility to divulge the many untelevized incidents of bias and discrimination that occur on and around our campus. It is not enough to wait until another Black person is shot before BLM is picked up again by the news media.

The Capitol insurrection should have served as a wakeup call to the nation about the organizing power of White supremacists. That conversation has passed, and there’s little that a college news outlet can do about that. However, we can make a difference on what people talk about here.

This past semester we have seen the grassroots formation of the Speak Up XU Protest, organized by Black student leaders and amassing a crowd of hundreds of Xavier students on a Friday afternoon in September. Upon hearing testimonies at this protest, Newswire explored racial disparities within academic advising and counseling services.

Over the summer, Black students formed the Coalition of Black Revolutionaries and Allies (COBRA) that created a list of demands and organized the Gallagher Student Center sit-in, challenging Xavier to be and do better. Black student leaders performed a takeover of the October Student Leadership Advisory Board meeting. Soon after, the Civil Rights Commission emerged, existing as a space where students of color can directly communicate their experiences to administrators.

Newswire printed opinions from Black students about the racial unrest in our country and locally, in addition to issuing the campus-wide opinion prompt, “How does racism manifest at Xavier, if at all?” All of this monumental work has been done in conjunction with regularly events and meetings hosted by the Black Student Association, Gentlemen Organized for Achievement and Leadership and Ladies with an Emphasis on Achievement and Distinction, as well as the newly formed Black Care Club.

These incredible strides are certainly reason for celebration. However, it is equally important to recognize that for years Black students have not received what they have requested and earned. It is therefore vital that Newswire continues our weekly coverage of Black student activism this semester.

Now is not the time for complacency. We must use our words and actions to continually re-emphasize the need for racial justice on this campus. As Seriah Barnes said on Newswire Live, “There is very rarely people that want to cover a situation like this…(it’s) making sure you guys elevate Black voices and make sure that you’re listening as well as trying to push them up so that they’re heard by people that don’t want to listen.”

To the entire Xavier community: let this be a challenge to do more. The Center for Diversity and Inclusion is currently sponsoring MLK week, the theme of which is Find Your Voice. Reflective and action-oriented events are continuing until Friday, serving as spaces to discern what you can do to advance racial justice on this campus.