This week Ramapo College observed Black Solidarity Week, an extension of Black Solidarity Day, to remind the nation of the collective strength and political power that exists in the unity of the black community.
The Black Student Union, which includes the Organization of African Unity, Brothers Making a Difference, Ebony Women for Social Change, Students of Caribbean Ancestry, Organization of Latino Unity and Ramapo Operation Link Up organized the week’s events.
The day was conceived from the play “A Day of Absence” and Mahatma Gandhi’s call for a day of protest to celebrate the black community.
On this day, people of African descent and supporters abstain from participation in the social, political and economic affairs of the nation to show the consequences that would ensue if black people were to disappear for one day.
With this peaceful absence, African-Americans and others passively oppose racism and discrimination, as well as social and civil injustices on a global level. In commemoration of the day, students are encouraged to wear black.
Following in annual tradition, participants gathered by the arch on campus and were escorted by Public Safety to the Hopper Slave Cemetery, where the students walked in silence.
There, the students learned about the history of the burial site, where slaves were once buried and still remain. The gravesite reveals the history of slavery in New Jersey during the 1700s and 1800s.
A moment of silence for those whose lives have been lost in the past and present, in the fight against social inequality, were remembered and celebrated.
Following the vigil, there was a Black Solidarity Recognition Banquet, featuring Reggie Walker, an educator, author and activist, as the keynote speaker.
Walker talked on the importance of creating solidarity within the black community to mirror and further the collective efforts of the civil rights movement, where people belonging to marginalized identity groups worked together to move ahead.
“I came here tonight to speak on the importance of black solidarity,” began Walker. “I thought it was very important to come to Ramapo, especially, because this is one of few schools in the state of New Jersey that actually observes Black Solidarity Day and Black Solidarity Week. So I’m here tonight to talk to students about understanding the importance of not just making this a day, but a mindset more than anything.”
Walker spoke about the importance of uniting student group efforts to increase awareness and visibility for issues affecting people of color and other marginalized persons.
“It’s good to do things for a day to get attention and raise awareness, but what are you doing after that day is over? Are you really embodying what black solidarity is about and are you really standing in unity for the issues that are affecting the black students on campus or oppressed students in general?” asked Walker. “While we have the day to celebrate and reflect on things, the mindset is actually really important.”
The banquet closed with the Black Student Union awarding certificates of appreciation to faculty and staff who have assisted and advised the organization, ultimately helping advance the BSU’s mission statement.
Some prevalent themes throughout the night included active allyship for targeted identity groups through solidarity and increased collaboration with other student groups.
“I would encourage students to see issues with any group that is facing oppression and facing injustice not just as black issues or people of color issues, but as human issues,” said Walker. “When we look at things through a human lens as opposed to a lens of color, a lens of gender or a lens of sexual orientation, it makes it easier for us to join the fight.”