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Students, community members gather on Main Quad to protest anti-Black racism

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Students gathered at Main Quad on Friday evening to protest anti-Black racism, marking the third on-campus demonstration in two days amid nationwide protests of racial injustice and police brutality.

A crowd of around 100 students and community members wearing facemasks gathered in front of Memorial Church at 5:45 p.m. Many entered from Jane Stanford Way, still covered in chalk messages from Thursday’s demonstration. At the organizers’ request, protestors divided between Black students, who stood in rows at the center of Main Quad, and non-Black students who stood facing them in solidarity from the edge of the quad. Several speakers stood in the center and addressed both crowds.

“These people right here [Black students], the people who you get on the streets, we’re not fragile,” said Olamide Abiose, a third-year law student, to the crowd. “This is a community that has dealt with slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration, and a lot of us have not had the luxury of just discovering racism this week.”

“I’m not interested in people who are speaking up right now because they pity their Black friends,” she added. “I’m interested in people who are acting out and speaking up because they recognize that their very humanity is at stake.”

Speakers also joined local artists in sharing poetry and song with the protesters. Documentary filmmaker Angelica Ekeke performed an original song and community artist and activist Sierra Gonzalez performed an original composition of poetic rap. Second-year law student Lisa Muloma read the poem “dear white america” by Danez Smith, and singer Paul Wade led the crowd singing “A Change is Gonna Come” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.”

Most stirring was the crowd’s final song, a somber “Happy Birthday” for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by police officers in her home in March, on what would have been her 27th birthday. 

At the end of the rally, Adrian Burrell, a first-year masters student in documentary film and one of the event’s organizers, read a list of demands that the crowd recited. 

“We demand the right to protest and be respected,” Burrell read. “We demand divestment from the police and investment in Black community. We demand immediate relief for Black communities. We demand community control. We demand an end to the war on Black people.”

Thursday evening’s protest follows two demonstrations yesterday on Jane Stanford Way and at the Li Ka Shing building on Stanford Medicine’s campus. Students have also participated in anti-racism protests nationwide.

“Across the diaspora, in London, in Paris, in the Netherlands, everywhere there’s people standing up, showing solidarity, showing that we’re not alone, that we love each other,” Burrell told The Daily after the rally. “I just wanted to try to hold a space where we can get that sentiment across to each other as best as we can while maintaining social distancing.”

“I grew up as a creative writer,” Muloma said. “I studied English in undergrad and usually I have things to say, but this moment has definitely been rendering a lot of us speechless … there’s a quote I love that talks about how suffering is kind of this silencing agent. If you’re in pain … you’re gritting your teeth and not like doing poems, and so I have been depending a lot on people who have written and have had the time and space and energy to write.”

“I don’t want to see another beautiful email,” she added when asked about what she hoped to see from Stanford’s administration and community moving forward. “I want to see actual change.”

The Daily has reached out to the University for comment.

“The Black Stanford community … they’ll always be in my heart for inviting me to that sacred space,” Gonzalez said. “… For the other students at Stanford that aren’t Black … What a privilege [it is] to have fellow students in your cohort that are willing to stand together, that are willing to raise these voices and these stories and these narratives to your campus.”

Burrell said he hopes all members of the Stanford community will engage in more conversation on racial injustice in the future.

“I would like to see more conversations among all members of the diaspora … on campus, along with conversations with allies, especially when they are willing to listen and understand how to show up for us,” he said.

This article has been corrected to reflect that the demonstration happened on Friday evening, not Thursday evening. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Daniel Wu at dwu21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Daniel Wu '21 is a Desk Editor for News, and also contributes to Sports, Arts & Life and The Daily's Graphics team. Contact him at dwu21 'at' stanford.edu.