Hodge: Postponing the Black Lives Matter Rally was the right decision

Jayla Hodge

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

The Black Lives Matter Solidarity Rally that was supposed to take place on April 9th was postponed until further notice, and that is a good thing.

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The description of the event stated that the rally will be “a peaceful rally to raise our voices for justice in the deaths of unarmed black bodies. We are rallying in solidarity with black communities who are experiencing systemic violence and racial profiling across the country…Join us as we speak up for justice.”

The death of Stephon Clark, a Sacramento African American man who was shot eight times in his backyard by police officers after the cell phone he was holding was mistaken for a gun, was the catalyst for the event.

According to the events Facebook page, the reasoning for postponing the event was that, “in the process of planning this event, we were asked by key leaders of color in the community to carefully consider its goals in relation to racial justice. They pointed out that the focus on the national tragedy of Stephon Clark’s death might support the misconception that racist violence does not happen right here in Fort Collins on a daily basis, when in fact it does. A sub-group of our organizers will now re-start the event planning to include the concerns of our community members.”

The leaders of color in our community are correct in their assessments of the event. The postponement of the rally is a good thing; in it’s original context, the rally actually was detrimental to the overall movement. 

We need to start being more proactive in the Fort Collins community first. There is a perception that Fort Collins is a great place to live for everyone, and by focusing a Black Lives Matter rally around an incident that occurred so far away and in an area that is so demographically different helps uphold the perception that “these kinds of things aren’t happening here.” This supports the idea that Fort Collins is less racist or problematic than other places. This is false.  

If Fort Collins wants to demonstrate allyship, members in this community are not limited to reacting only when people are subjected to violence very visibly and publicly. Moments of national crisis do not need to be the catalyst. Racism is flexible and adaptable and shows up in several different forms. Racism is when Black people are turned away from entering the Rec Room due to racial profiling or the more subtle but equally detrimental, daily slights, microaggressions, and use of racial slurs.  

Bridgette Johnson, the Director of CSU’s Black and African American Culture Center, responded in a Facebook post on the rally’s page, “It seems easier for people to show up at a march/rally, and not know what is happening here. I don’t want us to think we are far removed from acts of hate against people who have been and continue to be marginalized right here in our backyard, on a daily basis.”

The intention behind the event is not to be discredited. It’s important that we recognize issues like police brutality and injustice in our nation. It’s good to stand in solidarity with Stephon Clark and Black Lives Matter, for justice and equality, but there must be a real impact behind our actions.

“I don’t want us to use the situations that happen across the world that support this is ‘them not us’ idea, but an opportunity to stand in solidarity when injustice occurs, while acknowledging what is happening here, throughout Fort Collins. We want to bring awareness to our own stuff to avoid further hurt and harm,” Johnson said in-person.

“I don’t want us to use the situations that happen across the world to show this is ‘them not us’, but an opportunity to stand in solidarity when injustice occurs, while acknowledging what is happening here, throughout Fort Collins. We want to bring awareness to our own stuff to avoid further hurt and harm” said Bridgette Johnson .

Another criticism of the event is in the haste to put the rally on, it neglected to inform the public and include actual members of the black and African American community in planning of the event.

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“Continuously and consistently these events are done without our knowledge and our input, they are made for us without being tailored to us,” said Isiah Martin, CSU student activist and leader. “Fort Collins has a de-facto racism problem; it is not large displays but systemic and a part of the daily attitudes shown by people. They don’t necessarily uphold white supremacy on purpose but this is a community that is definitely doing that in a number of different ways.” 

This is a critical flaw. With Fort Collins having small communities of color, this event would be predominately a show of white allyship. Anti-racism and social justice is a movement for all people, not only liberals, marginalized identities or people of color. It is for everyone, whether they are conservative, progressive, rich, poor, black, brown or white, but it is important that we are including leaders and voices of color in planning events like this.

The rally lacked a local community aspect. While we may be a small population, there are marginalized students of color on this campus  and people in this community who are suffering. This year the Fort Collins community and CSU have seen a rise in hate crimes and bias motivated incidents. This rise is happening all over the country, but these behaviors and bias motivated incidents are not new: they are just happening more publicly this year. 

This is not the same as the false victimization some people with conservative views have when they claim marginalized status. It is the microaggressions and actions that are causing black and brown people to be socially barred from opportunities and, more extremely, costing them their lives.

The organizers of the event need to refocus and make the rally more intentional in the future.

Johnson sums it up perfectly. “Fort Collins needs to wake up and admit where we fall short. Hate is real here,from the police and from the average person walking down the street.

Jayla Hodge can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @Jaylahodge.