Student groups, academic departments make statements in solidarity with Black Lives Matter

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Following the anger and sadness that many in the Williams community are experiencing after recent acts of police brutality against Black people and ensuing protests against systemic racism, many student groups and academic departments have taken it upon themselves to write and release statements that state their values, reflect on current and past events involving racism and lay out steps they plan to take toward a better and more inclusive future. 

The Record reached out to every student group asking if they wrote a statement they would like to submit. If you would like to submit a statement on behalf of your student group or academic department to be included in this compilation, please email bcr1 and kzy1. 

Here are some groups’ messages:

All Campus Entertainment (ACE)

As an organization founded on the basis of entertaining, we admit that we have often confused entertainment with lightheartedness and apoliticism. But just as entertainment is embodied in our name, so are the ideas of inclusivity and community. Our roles within ACE have led us to increasingly reflect on our own actions and shortcomings as a Board, and how we can, and must, support the most marginalized among us.

With that in mind, we would like to make it clear that we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all those who have fought tirelessly for Black lives long before now.

First, to the Black-identifying Williams community: We grieve with you. We believe you. We support you. As always, your voice is important to us and we welcome your opinions on any aspect of our events and organization.

Secondly, we insist that President Mandel, Williams College Administration, and the Board of Trustees reflect on the College’s history of anti-Blackness and invest its financial resources in support of Black communities. All-Campus Entertainment has experienced the privilege of Williams’ enormous wealth firsthand, and urges the College to extend that same generosity toward Black community organizations, like the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) Futures Fund and The Loveland Foundation. We would like to draw particular attention to the diversion of Spring Fling funds, especially toward grassroots arts organizations like Afrotectopia, Black Trans Femmes in the Arts and bklyn boihood (just to name a few).

Finally, we thank the many students and other Eph community members who have educated us. The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Dreasjon Reed, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd represent not just the deaths of individuals, but of countless lives lost over centuries of state-sanctioned violence and oppression—a daily reality unfortunately all too familiar to many of our classmates, friends, neighbors and peers. Anti-Black racism has permeated into every aspect of the way we conduct our lives, even if we don’t realize it. It is in the criminal justice system, in healthcare, in housing, in jobs, in social services and, of course, in education.

To that end, we are committed to reviewing our own structure as a student organization. In the following days, we will be reviewing how each of our committees – Concerts, General Entertainment, Marketing, Stressbusters and Traditions – can internally define concrete action steps to work toward becoming more inclusive, equitable and just. We invite the student body to join the conversation via our anonymous online form. In two weeks time, we will come together to discuss our pledges as a Board and review each and every form response. The outcomes of that meeting will be published online.

Now is the time to demand frank and complex conversations with each other, but even more so, with ourselves. Let us commit to keeping the conversation going, so that our everyday behavior, on campus and in the world, will change as well.

Chinese American Student Organization (CASO)

We, the Chinese American Student Organization board, stand in solidarity with the Black community and the Black Lives Matter movement. We condemn the acts of violence against George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and many more Black individuals, as well as the police violence against protestors fighting for justice on behalf of the Black community. We acknowledge that the systemic covert and overt violence towards Black lives has gone on for far too long. We apologize that it has taken so long for CASO as an organization to make this statement. As a campus cultural club, we set out to foster a community that shares the Chinese American experience with any who chooses to engage with it. As a predominantly non-Black community, we have a responsibility to examine the anti-Black views in our campus community, home communities and in ourselves to combat anti-Blackness and learn to utilize our positionality to support the Black community. We call upon ourselves to use our privilege as a part of the Asian American community to support the Black community in many capacities including, but not limited to, sharing our funds, time, space and resources. We affirm that this work should have no end. To fully combat the deeply entrenched issues of anti-Blackness and violence against Black people, we must persist in our support for the Black community with continual and consistent urgency and effort.

Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, the CASO board will partake in workshops with the Davis Center to hold ourselves accountable through learning about social systems and identities, including the privileges that we possess as a group and the best ways to harness that privilege for the community, in order to promote a more inclusive environment. In our newsletter, we will dedicate a section for sharing resources such as, but not limited to: petitions, places to donate and coalition-building events on campus. We will also implement an anonymous feedback form to welcome students to disclose any thoughts or ideas that they may have to help us improve as a whole. In doing so, we will educate and equip ourselves, as well as all members, with mindful behaviors in order to better support the Black community. Through these actions, we hope to continue uplifting Black voices and amplifying the Black Lives Matter movement through our platform, to the Chinese-American community and to all members of CASO at Williams. 

Debate Union

We in the Williams College Debate Union are outraged at the disrespect for black lives shown by United States police officers, the suppression of the constitutionally protected speech of protestors and the inaction of legislators and prosecutors who allow police to act with impunity. To the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless others who have been killed, we extend our deepest sorrows and condolences. Black Lives Matter. To the protestors who speak bravely in the face of suppression, we stand in solidarity with your cause. To those in our communities both at our college and at home who feel unsafe or discriminated against, we recognize your struggle. 

The heart of debate is a recognition of students’ ability to deeply engage with pressing issues. Debate provides skills that support students as they seek change in their communities. With this in mind, we urge students to become agents of change in these difficult times whether by joining protesters, donating to bail funds and other organizations combating anti-black racism or using this moment as a learning opportunity. 

Speak at city council and town hall meetings, campaign and vote for changes that will empower people of color in your communities, support community organizations and relentlessly challenge those that sustain hate. Your voice is powerful, especially if you occupy a position of privilege: use it. 

Geosciences Department

We hope this email finds you all safe, healthy and well in these challenging times. There have been so many intersecting challenges in recent months, including new and ongoing threats to Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, immigrants, members of the queer and trans communities, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.

These challenges may be new, or may be compounded over a lifetime or many generations. If you are having a difficult time concentrating on your work or contemplating the next semester at Williams, you are not alone.

We want to acknowledge two important points:

1) Black people comprise 13% of the US population, but are underrepresented in the Geosciences. According to the American Geosciences Institute, Black students made up less than 3% of Geosciences graduate students in 2016, and only 1% of all PhDs awarded in Geosciences sub-disciplines. Geosciences remains one of the whitest sciences in the United States; this includes our own department. Of 108 Geosciences graduates from 2010-2019, 47 (44%) were women, and 21 (19%) were students of color; for comparison, the US Census estimates that about 40% of the US populations identifies as non-white and/or Hispanic/Latino (this number is similar for Williams overall). While the demographics of our department have changed over the last decades, we still have a long way to go to reach a level of diversity matching that in the US population and the Williams community. 

2) This lack of diversity negatively affects our discipline, including our research and the communities we serve. Geosciences is not immune from scientific racism (dating back to Linneaus, Cuvier and beyond),  and we need to confront that head-on, especially given the current reality that Black communities disproportionately bear the brunt of environmental degradation, pollution and climate change (see work by Robert Bullard, Sacoby Wilson, Beverly Wright, and many others). These facts intersect in the disproportionate impacts the COVID-19 outbreak is having on Black communities. 

Black students in Geosciences, we want you to know: your lives matter. You are a treasured part of our department family. 

Non-Black members of Williams Geosciences: we have work to do. It is fundamentally important to educate ourselves about racism in Geosciences, and in society at large. We must also become better allies

As faculty, we need to be more proactive about sharing information and resources with you, and also need to take steps such as incorporating more information about scientific racism into all of our courses. And the entire department—students and faculty alike—must do the work to educate ourselves and think deeply about our biases and cultural encumbrances. So as a start, here is a list of articles and resources specific to Geosciences, which we hope will help you understand the structural problems in the discipline. We all live with these historical realities.  We must all work to change them. 

·  The Geosciences Community Needs to Be More Diverse and Inclusive: Bell and White, Scientific American, 2020

·  Deep Biases Prevent Diverse Talent from Advancing: Howley, EOS, 2020

·  No progress on Diversity in 40 years: Bernard and Cooperdock, 2018, Nature Geosciences

·  Race and Racism in the Geosciences: Dutt, 2019, Nature Geosciences

·  Earth Science has a Whiteness Problem: Goldberg 2019, New York Times.

·  Women from some under-represented minorities are given too few talks at world’s largest Earth-science conference: Ford et al. 2019, Nature.

·  Scientists push against barriers to diversity in the field sciences: Pickrell 2020, Science.

·  A Primer on Diversity (with specific Geosciences examples and resources) 

This work is not easy. We, your professors and mentors, are prepared to feel uncomfortable and know that we will make mistakes, but we are committed to doing this work long-term. We are here for all of you.

Good Question A Cappella

Good Question stands with and supports the Black Lives Matter movement and the victims and families of those who have lost their lives to police brutality. To aid in showing our support, we have donated to Campaign Zero, an organization that utilizes research-based policy solutions to end police brutality in the US. We would love for other Williams a cappella and performance groups to show their support by spreading awareness and donating. We recognize that a cappella is a very white and privileged space at Williams and that donating to organizations fostering change and vocally showing support is one of the first steps to successful allyship.

We also call on the Williams administration to take direct action to support Black students at this time, specifically through expanding Davis Center and Integrative Wellbeing Services (IWS) resources. Additionally, we call on the administration to encourage alumni of the College to put their funds towards causes meant to materially protect and further the interests of Williams students. And since Williams holds helping us develop our argumentative and analytical skills to such a high standard, we also encourage the administration to dedicate resources to making anti-racist literature more accessible.

International Student Association (ISA)

As the Black Lives Matter movement inspires a long-simmering uprising for racial justice throughout the United States, garnering support throughout the world, we at the ISA are rethinking how we as individuals, as an organization and as a community can most effectively participate. 

The systemic devaluation of Black lives is not just an issue confined to the borders of the United States. As international students, the extent of the impact of what happens in the United States on the rest of the world is not lost on us. And whether it is the particular structures and attitudes of anti-Blackness that are endemic to the United States, or those endemic to our home countries, it is vital that we fight it where we can. For our being here at Williams, our benefiting from its wealth and influence, is made possible by the labor of Black slaves. The ongoing imperial and colonial pillaging of Black communities throughout the world is supported by the pipeline between Williams and Wall Street. Such pillaging built up the College’s ridiculously large endowment, which treats us well but perpetuates a system that continually makes decent and just education inaccessible to low-income communities, which are more often non-white than not, which are more often Black than not.

Further, the liberation movements in our own countries have often been in dialogue with the liberation movements led by Black Americans. Coming to the United States might have made these connections more salient for some of us, but know that they have always existed.

Williams College Jewish Association (WCJA)

Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof. Justice, justice, shall you pursue (Deut. 16:20). 

Our Jewish tradition – and indeed the very fiber of our moral consciousness – requires us to speak and act to combat injustice against anyone. We support and stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and many others, as they face pain and suffering in a country in which racism and injustice have continued for far too long. The Jewish concept of tikkun olam, meaning “repair the world,” demands that each and every person take action to improve the world. The members of the board of the Williams College Jewish Association (WCJA) unequivocally stand with the Black community in the fight for justice against systemic racism, violence and police brutality.  

We recognize the historically complex relationship between Black and Jewish communities in the United States and aim to continue and strengthen our solidarity. We seek to continue the historical unity of Jews fighting racism and African-Americans fighting antisemitism, and we will strive to create peace and obtain justice. We specifically recognize the racism within our own community and the way Jews of Color, including Black Jews, are othered, mistreated and rejected. We commit ourselves to addressing and removing these prejudices from our own spaces at Williams College and beyond.  

We acknowledge and condemn historic and contemporary injustices against Black people in America, including the violent systems of oppression from which white and white-passing people benefit. We are so sorry that it has taken so long, and so many Black lives, to galvanize these actions and apologize that WCJA as an organization has waited until these protests to make this statement, which should have come years ago. We affirm our commitment to ending any and all complicity we have with systemic injustices, which extends far beyond the words of any statement. We will hold ourselves and each other accountable for our implicit and explicit biases and work towards desperately needed changes to our unjust law enforcement, criminal justice, and economic systems.  

We pledge to take the following actions in the upcoming school year to support the Black Lives Matter movement and engage in this often difficult but always necessary work towards justice: 

-Hold fundraiser(s) for racial justice organizations;

-Host programming that centers the experiences and identities of marginalized Jews and other marginalized communities;

-Reach out to anti-racist organizations in the Berkshires;

-Build alliances with other student groups at Williams;

-Require Davis Center implicit bias training for all board members

We will adapt our plans as necessary given the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming semesters.

As students, Jews and global citizens, we are recommitting WCJA to justice work within our community and beyond. We strive to make WCJA a community of comfort, justice, peace and love for all.  

Law Society

Williams College Law Society stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement, the victims of police brutality, their families and those mourning their loss as well as others throughout the nation who are organizing for justice. One of our core beliefs as a group is equality and justice for all as enshrined in the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. We also believe in the rule of just law. In the abuse of power and disregard for Black lives by police and other institutions, just laws have been broken and unjust laws have been enforced. In response to this crisis, we call on our members to contribute to the causes of equality and justice for all in any way possible. The Law Society will be in contact with its members to promote and publicize appropriate resources and is open to hearing ideas on how it can become further involved. 

Board members of the Law Society also compiled a list of resources for donation:

Resources Anti-Racist Allyship Starter Pack 

Plethora of Donation Sites, Petitions, Educational Resources  & Other Opportunities for Engagement  

The Williams Record: Race, Injustice, and Black Lives Matter: Recommended Readings from Faculty and Staff  

Black-Led LGBTQ+ Organizations  

Bail Funds/Legal Help by City  

Feed The Frontlines: Provide Power Sandwiches (Black Eyed Peas Hummus, Sliced Veggies, Pickled Red Onion and Sun Butter, Bananas). Looking for volunteers or donations (Venmo: Isaiahblake1 & CashApp: $Blakei17) 

Nothin’ But Cuties (NBC)

NBC stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, protestors and activists fighting for racial justice and those in the Black community who have experienced and died from police brutality. We recognize the urgent and long-standing need to dismantle white supremacy, fight systemic racism and defund the police.

We acknowledge that hip-hop is a part of Black culture that is often exploited by non-Black people, and that it originated in Black and Latinx communities in the Bronx during the 1970s. As a hip-hop dance group that utilizes movement and music from Black artists, NBC recognizes our debt to the Black community and the necessity of our taking action in the BLM movement. NBC has always had the goal of sharing our knowledge and love of hip-hop with Williams. We will continue to host open workshops for all levels with the intention of creating a space for both Black and non-Black students to engage with hip-hop dance, culture and its foundation. We will continue to question and reflect on how we represent hip-hop, and Blackness by proxy, on the Williams campus.

We strive to prevent this statement from becoming an act of mere performative activism by constantly educating ourselves and actively supporting the Black community both publicly and privately. In particular, we uplift the following organizations: the Black Trans Femmes in the Arts Collective and the Black Visions Collective.

The Williams Forum

The Williams Forum was founded to create space for Williams students to engage with one another. As an organization specifically positioned to facilitate difficult political conversations, we have had a lot of reflecting to do in the past few weeks. 

The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other recent acts of anti-Black violence have forced us to directly acknowledge the systemic racial injustices that exist in the United States, at institutions like Williams, and our role in perpetuating them. During our weekly discussions, we did not center voices of people of color. We avoided talking about race. Our nearly all-white board felt uncomfortable and unprepared to do so. But that’s no excuse. We recognize that omitting race from our discussions is part of what reinforces white supremacy. We are sorry. 

As an organization, and a group of individuals, the Forum Board can do better. Black Lives Matter. We oppose anti-Blackness and racial injustice in all of its forms. We acknowledge the violence that can result from unspoken privilege. To that end, we are working to change the facilitation, norms and content of our conversations to make sure our space is safe for students of color. 

We know that just changing the conditions of our conversations will not change the reality of the racist system in which we actively live our lives—a system and country where jogging, birdwatching, driving and existing while Black is criminalized. But we also think it is important to start our anti-racist work by examining our own individual racism and the way it manifests in the organizations and institutions of which we are a part. 

Going forward, the Forum Board pledges to:

  • Pressure President Mandel to increase Williams’ financial support of Black activist organizations, given that the school’s abundance of resources positions it to do so;
  • Collaborate with other Williams organizations to center the voices and perspectives of people of color in our conversations;
  • Learn to more effectively facilitate political dialogue in a way that creates a safe and inclusive space for people of color at Williams;
  • Host board meetings that are open to all Williams community members in order to discuss how the Forum should act against racism;

We accept and encourage feedback and questions, as we learn best when we learn from one another. We will send out an email by the first day of classes updating the Williams community on our progress toward these goals.  In the meantime, feel free to message us on Instagram or Facebook, or fill out this Google Form

Sincerely,

The Williams Forum Board

Emma Neil, Davey Morse, Grant Swonk, Abhy Scott, Sam Mermin, Emma McTague

Williams Recovery of All Perishable Surplus (WRAPS)

WRAPS stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and its allies in demanding racial justice and equality. We support the struggle for social justice and anti-racism in Berkshire County and nationwide. In this moment of heightened instability, particularly for marginalized communities of color, we encourage our supporters to consider contributing to organizations committed to supporting racial justice through donations, petition support and publicity. The WRAPS social media accounts have posted a list of organizations doing this work as well as resources about the connection between food justice and racial justice.

The Williams Telos

The Williams Telos believes that every person is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless others are not only injustices against the Black community but also injustices against the Creator. Black lives matter. We lament their deaths as a part of the longer, systemic racism against our Black brothers and sisters that ultimately points to the problem of sin in our society. As those who hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are not called to be silent. We are not called to be complacent. We must recognize our responsibility as believers to pray for and work toward justice in our homes, communities and cities.

Learn to do good; seek justice, defend the oppressed; bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:17).

Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24).

Williams for Williamstown

We stand with Black Lives Matter.

We unequivocally condemn the racist, violent acts law enforcement officials have committed against George Floyd, Breonna Taylor (among so many others) and peaceful protestors nationwide.

We started our initiative to serve Berkshire County, but this week was an important reminder of the national community that tolerates anti-Blackness far too often.

We encourage all of our followers and supporters to consider donating to legal and mutual aid funds that support the aims of BLM. We will be posting the links to organizations in which members of our team have contributed to throughout the week.

We will not be complicit. We will not be silent. 

Williams Ultimate Frisbee (WUF)

We are posting to voice our support for the Black Lives Matter movement and for Black people in our community and across the country. We are saddened and angered by the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Ahmaud Arbery, among many others. These names offer a few examples of the brutal realities faced by Black Americans every day. As an organization, we stand with the victims of state-sanctioned police violence and those who face the violence of anti-Black racism in all forms.

WUF has traditionally been a community of majority wealthy and white students who have immense privilege. As present and past members of this organization, we have a responsibility to use this privilege to support those who may not have the platform or economic resources that we do. As a result, the WUF teams and leadership are challenging our members, families, friends and alumni to collectively raise and donate at least $10,000 more.

Please know that our efforts cannot and will not stop with donating. We are formulating next steps to take as a community to both support this immediate cause in non-monetary ways and engage in discussions about race and privilege within our organization, the ultimate community and beyond. We will update you soon with those plans and encourage your involvement. This post is also an invitation for your feedback and suggestions for further steps. 

Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA)

The Williams YDSA mourns the losses of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other black victims of extrajudicial, racially motivated killings around the country. We stand in solidarity with the protests and movements that have taken place nationwide. Black lives matter, and we all must work to reform and eventually abolish the institutions which keep this truth from being reflected in how the state treats black bodies – in particular, the American police system. As the national YDSA has recognized, “the white, capitalist ruling class has used policing as a means of enforcing and maintaining a racial and economic caste system since the early days of colonization.” The carceral system and the unjust racial capitalism which upholds it must be dismantled brick by brick. 

Williams College is a powerful institution with a massive endowment. The college could be doing the necessary work of contributing to the end of the systems of power which plague our community and our campus. Instead, we find ourselves pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into a new police station for those who are directly culpable in violence inflicted on black bodies. All the while it guts the Davis Center and allows for the campus to remain an unsafe place for black faculty. College leadership would rather let you sink into complacency while feeding you feel-good stories about the value of your education in combating racial injustice than to have you speak out against these issues. We urge all Williams students to engage both nationally and locally in anti-racist activities, and to challenge the college on its policies. 

For our part, we plan to direct and encourage donations towards regional and national antiracist and abolitionist organizations; engage with issues of racial violence and inequality in our book club; and promote antiracist leftist perspectives on campus, whether physically or virtually present. We commit to promoting and elevating campus and local activism which seeks to address the role of Williams College in promoting anti-blackness. We understand the necessity of black-led activism, and commit to elevate black activists with our work.

Finally, we acknowledge that the national DSA and YDSA are disproportionately nonblack organizations. As we build the foundation of this club, we commit to not just respecting but prioritizing the voices and experiences of students from black and/or other marginalized backgrounds, with the objective of building a truly leftist organization which gives all its members the respect and support they deserve.

Statements were compiled by Bellamy Richardson, Features Editor.