9/7/20 BLM Protests Gabriel Vaughn

Freshman Gabriel Vaughn leads the BLM march down past the bell tower and Wilmeth Active Learning Center on the way to Hovde Hall of Administration. 

Just over two weeks after the first protest of the semester, students again stood on the steps of Hovde Hall of Administration, still advocating for change from the University.

“I guess Purdue didn’t hear us the first time,” said Kay Hawthorne, a senior in the College of Health and Human Sciences.

While Monday’s protest, unlike the first, didn’t include a formal list of demands from the University, it did garner more speeches and calls for reform.

Olivia West, a senior in the College of Agriculture, was clear that the protesters were not asking but demanding that Purdue be more inclusive of black voices.

“This administration is taking timid, half steps, when they promised giants leaps,” she said.

“Some people on this campus are more devastated by Neon Cactus closing than the people who have been slaughtered,” West said. She marched while toting a sign with the names of black people who have been killed.

Though the crowd Monday was smaller than last time, more than a hundred students gathered, masked and attempting to stay distanced.

The protesters marched down Third Street, turning on University Street and marching with cars passing just feet away, until ultimately reaching the steps of Hovde Hall.

Adrianna Plummer, president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, said although the weather may have affected the turnout, she felt that as the Boilermaker community protests more, the cause will gain more attention.

Amanii Brown, a member of NPHC and a senior in the Polytechnic Institute, said that since the last protest Provost Jay Akridge commended them for protesting.

Plummer said that Fraternity, Sorority and Cooperative Life has been helping NPHC, itself a council of historically black fraternities and sororities. The organization has not received comment from the administration regarding the list of demands made at the last protest held during Boiler Gold Rush.

“Administration has been really supportive of helping us with the protests,” she said. “But other than that we haven’t heard anything.”

While changes within the University are necessary, sophomore in the College of Engineering Zion Moss said continued education and awareness of injustice is also necessary.

“It takes more than just (an) administrative effort,” he said. “It has to be an overarching change. It has to be from Purdue, and it has to be from the student body as well.”

As he addressed the gathered crowd from the steps of Hovde Hall, his mask slipped further and further with each point of his speech. The speech he delivered was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., as well as his parents, he said.

“We march to make sure that when we say the statement ‘All persons are created equal’ … that all people in this country are created equal,” he said. “That is why we march, that is why we fight and that — that, is why — Black. Lives. Matter.”

After his final pronouncement, Moss and several others raised their fists in solidarity, inciting cheers from those below.

Folabi Oshinubi, a 2019 graduate from the College of Engineering and former president of the NPHC, spoke about Purdue’s lack of reform over the years and how it is more important than ever to keep the pressure on the administration.

“For four long years, I watched Purdue sit and do nothing for the black community,” he said from the steps. “Are we disturbing y’all now?”

The crowd roared in response.

Gabriel Vaughn, a freshman in the College of Education, said he attended the protest held during BGR and was hopeful that consecutive protests would effect administrative change.

“I’m hoping that the University learns that we’re not about to go away, and that they can’t sweep us under the rug,” he said.

Junior in the Polytechnic Institute Taylor McNamee said she was volunteering as a medic for the protest. Volunteers weren’t required to have medical experience, she added, but as an avid rock climber, she said she did.

“I found the sign-up for volunteers on the NPHC Instagram page,” she said, “and I really wanted to come out and show my support while at the same time helping in the best way I knew how.”

Not just students were in attendance. Mindy Tan, a professor of African American studies, and her husband brought their four-year-old daughter with them to attend the protest.

“I brought my daughter out here with us because I thought that this protest would be safe,” she said. “I wanted to stand in solidarity and I’m hoping that this protest helps effect real change at the University.”

Several members of the Purdue women’s basketball team, such as Ajah Stallings, a junior in the College of Pharmacy, walked in solidarity with protesters as well.

“I came out here today because I believe in the cause,” Stallings said, “and was hoping that by being here we can force the University to make real change.”

“This fight is far from over. We’re gonna keep being out here,” said Noah Smith, member of the NPHC and Phi Beta Sigma, as the speakers finished. “We’re not giving up, and I hope y’all don’t either.”

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