American River College’s Universal eNgaging Inclusive Transformative Education (U.N.I.T.E.) program is spearheading a series of events that address the Black Lives Matter movement and the painful impact of the controversial police killings of black men and women.
Since Aug., UNITE has been trying to spread campus awareness on incidents with law enforcement and the Black/African American community. A memorial site was created inside the Student Center and followed up with a Brave Space on Wednesday focusing on implicit bias.
The discussion series “Changes and Recovery” is designed to help all members of the community including law enforcement to come together to heal and work towards building a strong community for everyone according to Brett Sawyer of UNITE.
“As an institution of higher learning, we aim to invoke thought,” Sawyer said in a previously published open letter to the Current. “We also recognize the disproportionate targeting that African Americans face from law enforcement in society at large, and that this impacts many of our students here at ARC. It is our intent to stand in solidarity and empathize with the Black community.”
The mood in the discussion was somber and reflective. The conversations are confidential; the Current was invited to stay and observe but in order to maintain the sense of safety and trust, no recordings or pictures were allowed.
“We at UNITE feel it is important for ARC to have a safe place to talk about these issues because it directly affects and concerns members of our campus,” said Jeremiah Graves, a UNITE member and one of the event’s student organizers. “We want to do our best to provide a platform where these issues can be discuss and addressed.”
Some participants spoke of the need to work together with law enforcement, others felt that the impact and legacy of America’s slave owning past has embedded us as a country with wounds that we have yet to heal from, which causes fear and mistrust on both sides.
Organizers feel that addressing the needs and concerns of both the Black community and law enforcement are critical in order to find solutions.
“Everyone should be included as part of the solution because the problem isn’t so simple to solve,” Graves said in an e-mail. “It would take a collective effort from all sides and point of views. Right now we are focused on what we can do locally and here on campus at ARC.”
ARC Campus police were invited to attend but due to a confusion in the program set-up, they were unable to attend.
“We are thankful to those who serve and protect our community in a lawful manner – this includes our LRCCD police department,” Graves said. “Solidarity between Black Lives Matter, and solidarity with the variety of other communities that encompass our campus are not – and do not have to be – mutually exclusive.”
Event organizers plan to work with ARC Campus police so that they can attend these events in the future.
For more information on these events please contact Brett Sawyer at [email protected] or stop by the UNITE office located in the HUB in the Student Center building, adjacent to Starbucks.