The vigil and Black Lives Matter banquet on Friday night was one of the closing events for Black Solidarity Week, which held a series of events from Sunday, Nov. 6 through Saturday, Nov. 12. The week started with a church service and community cleanup on Sunday and ended with the banquet Friday and a community service trip on Saturday morning.
Black Solidarity Week started as a single day in 1969 to recognize the important contributions that African Americans make to society. It was inspired by Douglas Turner Ward's play, "A Day of Absence," which examines the consequences on society if black citizens disappeared for just a day.
"Today, this week-long event is a time for people of color to stand up for their voices," said Domonique Jarrett, senior and spokesperson for the Black Student Union, also known as BSU.
Ramapo College has a history of participating in Black Solidarity Week since the 1990s.
“Not many colleges have the privilege to do this,” Jarrett said, adding that Montclair State University is one other such college. “We are definitely grateful to have this time to express how we feel about police brutality, about Black Lives Matter and more.”
The banquet started with a vigil for those killed from police brutality. Students carried lanterns bearing the names of just a few of the lives lost. Jarrett called the lanterns "a light of those who have passed away through police brutality." Students also spoke names out loud of victims and loved ones.
The banquet also highlighted black inventors such as Garrett Morgan, inventor of a traffic signal and gas mask, Daniel Hale Williams, pioneer of open heart surgery, George Crum, inventor of the potato chip and Patricia Bath, creator of a laser surgical device, as well as many others.
“Without them we probably wouldn’t be here today,” said Jarrett.
Jarrett also stressed the importance of learning more about African American history.
“Do some research. Know about your culture,” Jarrett urged.
Members of Ebony Women for Social Change, EWSC, Brothers Making a Difference, BMAD, and Students of Caribbean Ancestry, SOCA, presented on some of the events that took place throughout the week. These events included Haitian art exhibits, poetry nights, informational events on incarceration, silent walks and a Black Panther speaker, Charlotte O’Neal. Members of the BSU also met with the Mahwah Police Department during the week.
"I hope students understand the unity that Black Solidarity Week is supposed to promote. We are a community here to laugh together, work together and excel together and I think that's what all the events worked to promote," said Brittany Peters, senior.
The notion of unity presses forward through all events under BSU. Even after Black Solidarity Week, Jarrett encourages all students to come to events and show support.
“It would be nice to see students who are not of color to attend our events because we honestly love that,” said Jarrett. “I definitely want there to be unity, because that’s what the Black Student Union is: to unify students. Yes, students of color, but it’s for every student as well.”
The dinner for the banquet included sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, chicken, fish, collard greens and pie.
"This is the banquet we do as well as one of our traditions to give you guys soul food to give an uplifting feeling throughout what we’re doing and what is going on outside,” Jarrett said.
Jarrett ended the event by prompting students to repeat a chant:
"It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains."