With the recent rise and fall of political movements on college campuses across the U.S. fighting to bring attention to instances of injustice, the student group known as the Collective decided to focus its latest discussion in the Assata Shakur Series on international student movements.
Senior Kayla Young began the Jan. 29 event by discussing the history of the Ukrainian Spring. Student-led protests began in the nation’s Independence Square in Kiev on Nov. 21, 2013, but there was soon escalation when about 500 police officers came into the square at 4 a.m. Nov. 30 and beat the sleeping protesters with truncheons.
“It shifted focus to the police and how the state uses officers to enforce their power,” Young said.
She said the shift would help unify the movement. Even if everyone did not agree on what Ukraine’s political goals should be, they could unify against police brutality, Young said. She said this allowed students to fluidly use their different skillsets — whether they were through art or administration — to enact chance. These protests would lead to the Ukrainian revolution in February 2014.
The conversation then moved closer to home as senior Emily Ramos brought up the 43 students who went missing in Mexico in September 2014. The students, who had been studying to become teachers, had been traveling to Iguala, Mexico, to protest what they believed were discriminatory teacher-hiring practices, according to the BBC. These students have now been pronounced dead, and NBC reported that then-mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, has since been arrested for ordering the attacks.
“This is an example of epistemic violence,” Ramos said. “The people who are willing to speak out about the corruption in Mexico are being silenced.”
Following the trend of violence, senior Crystal Kayiza, president of the Student Government Association, geared the discussion toward the current movements happening in Palestine — how they have related to the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. — and spoke about Students for Justice in Palestine, a national network of students and recent graduates calling for Palestinian rights and self-determination.
Kayiza showed popular Twitter hashtags such as #FergusontoPalestine and tweets from Palestinian protesters on tips for those in Ferguson on how to deal with police-fired tear gas as examples of this solidarity, as well as a short video by Dream Defenders of a demonstration coordinated by Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter, in Nazareth. With the chant “occupation is a crime, from Ferguson to Palestine” joining the collection of other calls and responses, the two events have become interwoven.
“If you were in a big city, you might have participated in some of these movements or protests, and it was — especially when I was in New York City — it was a reoccuring theme to have discussions about what was occurring in Palestine,” Kayiza said.
The Assata Shakur Series will have two more events next week with “Deconstructing Media Tropes of Bodies of Color: What journalists and the public need to know” on Feb. 4 and “The People’s Epistemology” on Feb. 5. Both events will begin at 7 p.m. in Textor 102.