Hundreds of students march in #NotProudToBe demonstration

Samantha Ye

large crowd wearing black clothes facing two women
Colorado State University students congregate at Johnson Hall as part of the #NotProudToBe blackout event during the Fall Address, Sept. 19. (Anna von Pechmann | Collegian)

Upwards of 400 students marched in the #NotProudToBe blackout event during Colorado State University President Joyce McConnell’s first Fall Address Sept. 19 at The Oval.

Carrying signs and donned in all black, students marched in the silent demonstration as part of a call for institutional change at the University when it comes to addressing and minimizing bias-related incidents.

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This follows the viral photo of four CSU students in blackface, yet another incident of hate speech or bias to occur at the University over the last few years.

We are organized, we are powerful and we will be heard.” -Marcela Riddick

Janaye Matthews walks with fist up as she leads the #NotProudToBe blackout event to The Oval during the Fall Address, Sept. 19. (Anna von Pechmann | Collegian)

Despite it being a silent protest, organizing students — including Marcela Riddick, Janaye Matthews and Micaela Parker — emphasized that the demonstration was, at its core, about making sure student voices are listened to.

“They’re expecting us to be loud, they’re expecting us to be mad, they’re expecting us to do so much, and we’re about to prove them wrong, and we’re about to show them how powerful silence can be,” Riddick said to demonstrators before the event. “Because silence in a space where we’re not welcome can be just as powerful, and like I promise, we will make sure all of your voices will be heard.”

The numbers and racial diversity of the group made a statement in itself, Matthews said. Video imagery and organizer estimates suggest between 360 to 500 students marched in the event.

Colorado State University students march at the #NotProudToBe blackout event towards The Oval during the Fall Address, Sept. 19. (Anna von Pechmann | Collegian)

Staying silent was crucial to the demonstration, as hundreds of students, linked arm-in-arm in rows of five, filed into The Oval, deliberate not to impede on McConnell’s right to give her speech.

At the end of the demonstration, the leading students placed their statement of purpose flyer on the stage where McConnell was giving her speech.

McConnell acknowledged the students then by saying she was “very proud of our students who are marching right now and exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Marcela Riddick and Janaye Matthews take a knee as the national anthem plays before the Fall Address. (Anna von Pechmann | Collegian)

Students, however, were not there for McConnell’s speech.

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“We’re here for us; we weren’t here for her,” demonstrator Vee Martinez said after the march. “We’re here to make our point clear and let them know that we’re visible, and we create space, and we are important.”

Martinez said they made that point clear and will continue to make that point and “love and support what each and every one of us does for one another.”

“It will not stop here; it will not stop today,” Riddick said. “#NotProudToBe is about continuously showing up and showing out in spaces that they weren’t asking for us. … We are organized, we are powerful and we will be heard.”

We all deserve to be students and humans, and at the end of the day, I’m tired of being a dollar sign, and I’m ready to be a person again.” -Janaye Matthews

Colorado State University students congregate at Johnson Hall during the #NotProudToBe blackout event, Sept. 19 (Anna von Pechmann | Collegian)

A similarly large crowd of students spoke at the Associated Students of CSU the night before, where a hate speech resolution was passed. Students spoke out against the blackface photo as well as the University’s response to it and previous bias-related incidents.

The University sent out two emails about the blackface photo. The first one denounced the image but said the First Amendment prevents the University from punishing students in blackface.

Matthews said at first, she laughed at the initial email, but really, she was mostly frustrated.

Colorado State University students raise their fists at the #NotProudToBe blackout event meeting after the demonstration. (Anna von Pechmann | Collegian)

“This was the exact same message we got two years ago when we made a bit of a scene after a noose was found in Newsom,” Matthews said in an interview with CTV 11. “For me, the conversations that I’ve been having for the last two years, I feel like they have fallen on people who weren’t listening or didn’t care enough.”

But students will no longer go ignored as they demand institutional policy change and work to hold the University accountable, the event organizers said.

“I made the decision to come to this university, and I will no longer allow them to exhaust me while I explore my education,” Matthews said. “I deserve to be here; we all deserve to be here. We all deserve to be students and humans, and at the end of the day, I’m tired of being a dollar sign, and I’m ready to be a person again.”

#NotProudToBe purpose statement

The following is a full transcription of the #NotProudToBe purpose statement, a copy of which demonstrators left on the stage where McConnell was delivering her speech:
 
“Colorado State University (CSU) has cultivated a culture around inaction and complicity regarding biased related incidents. While CSU has been proactive in trying to address these offenses, true institutional change has been absent. After consistent demands for change following the noose in Newsom and the swastika on Snapchat in 2017, the discrimination against the Native students during their CSU tour in 2018 and the viral blackface photo and the homophobic tirades happening now on The Plaza, as just a few examples of bias related incidents, we are no longer accepting the claim that nothing can be done. We are calling now for institutional change within CSU to provide actionable steps to uphold and enforce the principles of community: inclusion, integrity, respect, service and social justice.”
 
Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.