Demonstrators marched through the Western Illinois University campus in Macomb to protest for rights they feel are being eroded.
The peaceful rally was sparked by the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City. Both were unarmed black men killed by white police officers. Grand juries declined to indict police in either death.
Jim LaPrad, who teaches in Education & Interdisciplinary Studies at WIU, said the march and teach-out was not an anti-police demonstration – it was a call for change.
“It’s for them to change. For us to change. For us to hold ourselves responsible,” said LaPrad.
“When it comes to issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia, those are learned behaviors that we have to challenge and check as a society.”
LaPrad helped organize the rally. He feels education is a key to changing people’s attitudes. He also said the rally was just the start of a long process. He said the dialogue will continue next semester through the Difficult Conversations program series and the annual Dealing With Difference Institute.
Other events could be held too. Updates can be found on the Black Lives Matter Facebook page for WIU.
The demonstration was co-sponsored by a number of social justice organizations at WIU.
Some notable quotes from the rally:
“We are here today to shout out an affirmation that black lives matter here at WIU.” – LaTessa Black
“Some white people hate black people, and some white people love black people. Some black people hate white people, and some black people love white people. So, you see, it’s not an issue of black and white. It’s an issue of lovers and haters.” – Rayvon Shelton
“America’s next Dr. King is alive. She’s more than likely at one of these demonstrations. She might even be here amongst us right now.” – Stephen Taylor
“To all my white friends out there who wouldn’t share even our comments or our memes on Facebook but commented to me, ‘Yes this is important but I’m afraid my family will disown me,’ what is more important than this? We all need to evolve.” – Heather McMeekan
“We have to work hard to change the situation in Ferguson, in New York, in Cleveland, in Macomb, Illinois.” – Mohammad Siddiqi
“Our local police force has not one black officer on it. We have not one black fireman. We have one black teacher.” – Byron Oden Shabazz
“In all honesty, all this is beautiful but it means absolutely nothing if we don’t get involved.” – Brandon Hayes