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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Students Hold Teach-in and Vigil For Mike Brown, Eric Garner

Rebecca Gibian |
December 4, 2014 | 7:53 p.m. PST

Senior News Editor

Students and community members gather outside Doheny Library. (Rebecca Gibian/Neon Tommy)
Students and community members gather outside Doheny Library. (Rebecca Gibian/Neon Tommy)
In the course of two weeks, two officers have walked free after killing two black men.

Thousands of people marched for change after Darren Wilson, the officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in the street, was not indicited. Even more people are now calling for action after a grand jury in Staten Island did not indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who choked Eric Garner, a father of six who was selling loose cigarettes, to death. 

USC students are no different. On Thursday, they staged a teach-in featuring four Los Angeles community members, including: Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter and executive director of the organization Director of Dignity and Power Now; Thandi Chimurenga, a freelance journalist for LA Watts Times and author of "The Murder(s) of Oscar Grant,"; Billion Godsun, a grassroots community organizer who has worked in South L.A. on issues such as police brutality and racial justice for 15 years; and Edxie Betts, an anti-authoritarian liberation artist.

"As students you have to understand the privileged position you occupy," said Chimurgena. "How will you use your privilege as students?"

About a hundred people gathered for the event, sitting on the ground outside of Doheny Library. The speakers introduced themselves and then gave students and community members the opportunity to ask questions. 

"What do you say to your children when they witness videos of their own people being choked to death?" asked one student. Others questioned what the panelists do in order to not burn out. 

"I think the anger kind of fuels me, the potential to make change keeps me motivated," said Godsun. 

Chimurenga continued, "That trauma is real. Acknowledge anger and use it to fuel yourself to continue to fight injustice."

Though the panel had a comfortable, yet energetic feel, there were a few tense moments. One young woman stood up, expressing concern that people, including white people, who are members of the lower class are also oppressed and face issues with the police. She wanted the community to acknowledge that as well (see video). 

However, the panelists did not think it was the proper time or place to discuss the issues lower-class whites face. Cullours, Chimurenga and Betts all expressed their hope that people would "check their privilege."

"People need to check their privilege and understand what other people mean when they say 'black lives matter,'" said Cullours. 

After the question and answer session, the group hosted a "die-in" and candlelit vigil where people laid on the ground for four and a half minutes to represent the four and a half hours Michael Brown's body was in the street in Ferguson.

After the die-in, a young woman called out a man who was in a yellow raincoat handing out newspapers. She said he was from the group Black Riders Liberation Party. The group allegedly would torture black community members and some of the people at the vigil were part of a group who revealed the Party's identities and deeds. The man was told to leave. 

The event ended with an open-mic. The messages will echo throughout campus for days to come. 

"What can we do, as students on this campus, tonight, tomorrow, the next day, to further this movement?"

Reach Senior News Editor Rebecca Gibian here and follow her on Twitter here



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