In a powerful demonstration of solidarity on Friday, September 25, hundreds of students took part in a series of campus events in protest of racial injustice. The events of the day were held in protest of the recent legal decision in Kentucky not to indict three Louisville Metro Police Department officers for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in March. More than addressing this single legal case, however, the students who took part did so in general protest of anti-Black racism.
All students were welcomed to participate, and doing so was entirely voluntary. The day’s events were organized by members of Hotchkiss Affinity groups Cafė and MoCaH (Men of Color at Hotchkiss) and BaHsa (Black and Hispanic Student Association), whose members worked through the night on Thursday to prepare.
In an email encouraging community engagement, Aleema Kelly ’21, one of the organizers, provided a number of news resources students could use to familiarize themselves with the Taylor case. As she explained, “We have decided that this injustice and mistreatment cannot be ignored. We are holding a blackout, moment of silence, march, and an overall protest demonstration in honor of Breonna Taylor and the countless other victims of police brutality and prejudiced acts that haven’t received the justice that they deserve.”
The demonstrations began in the morning with a “walkout” at Main Circle, followed by a student performance by members of the Step Team. Students, faculty, and staff members then marched to Sprole Field. After a moment of silence, individual volunteers shared moving personal stories of racism and solidarity during an open mic session. All activities were conducted fully masked, and physical distancing rules were carefully observed.
To ensure that the full community was able to participate, including students who are learning remotely, later in the day, student organizers held a virtual “fishbowl” over zoom. More than 400 people attended. The call, originally scheduled for 60 minutes, ran for two hours as dozens of students expressed their anger over the jury’s decision, shared personal experiences with racism, called for accountability, and stood up as allies.
All affinity groups were encouraged to open up their space for their members via Zoom later that evening.
In support of student activism, several Black alumni submitted recorded video messages, including Elizabeth Hines ‘93, co-president of the Board of Trustees, who told students: “I want you to know that you are not alone. Your pain, your hurt, your interpretation of what you are seeing is weighing on people all over this country and the world.” But she noted, “You have a great opportunity to educate our community about systemic racism.”
“This year, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s motto is ‘walk the talk,’ which our students did. I am honored to be part of a School where so many are ready to take action and drive change to benefit the greater community,” said Director of Diversity & Inclusion Yassine Talhaoui. “It fills me with pride to know that our students are willing to challenge convention, and that collectively, we are not afraid to examine ourselves continuously with respect to our responsibilities and our duty to humanity.”
To support students in participating in the day’s events, the School announced that Friday would be a “grace day.” Students were granted the option to participate in the demonstrations or to attend classes. Homework was also reduced for the day
Making Their Voices Heard, Students Stage Walkout To Protest Racial Injustice