#DefendBlackGirlsUAlbany draws crowd of hundreds
By Madeline St. Amour
Kassie Parisi, Russell Oliver and Brittany Gregory contributed to this report
Hundreds of people gathered around the small fountain at the University at Albany at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 1 in support of the three black women who reported being verbally and physically assaulted on a CDTA bus Saturday night at 1:40 a.m.
“This is more like a press conference because we are putting people on notice,” the opening speakers, Amber Lee Carter and Dedra Johnson said.
Black women stood on the fountain holding signs reading “Again . . . Black Lives Matter” and “Hella Black and Proud.”
Tatiana Beaujour, a senior who was standing in the crowd, teared up while talking about why she came to the rally.
“What happened to those three women could happen to any black woman on campus,” Beaujour said. “To think that there are people who could do that – this isn’t the university we thought it was.”
A number of students and one alumni spoke at the rally.
“No one should go through what these three women went through this past weekend. At no point on the University at Albany’s campus should racism or discrimination exist. I call on the administration of the University at Albany to do the right thing,” one speaker said.
An artist, Amani Amuala, debuted a slam poem she wrote called “Black Girl Fly.”
Faculty from across the SUNY system also came to the rally. Horace Ivey and Paul Strasior, both from the Syracuse Upstate Medical Center, said that United University Professions, the union for SUNY faculty and staff, had a meeting today and President Fred Kowal arranged for members to leave early and head to the rally.
“We want to support the end of racism,” Strasior said. Members from Buffalo, Stony Brook, Plattsburgh, Binghamton and Empire State College came to the rally.
Speakers called on all men to defend and respect black women, saying “do not pick and choose which black women you respect and which you do not.”
At one point, a chant broke out and the people on the fountain said: “It is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and protect one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
One speaker read out a list of demands, which included the expulsion of the students who allegedly assaulted the three black women on the bus, sensitivity training for university police, and that course requirements are changed so that every UAlbany student graduates having taken at least one course in Africana studies.
“Diversity and inclusion is more than large numbers . . . it requires dialogue between this student body and this institution,” one speaker said.
Students in the crowd mainly said they came to support their peers.
“It could’ve been me or my friends,” Patonia Gurra, a senior, said. “In unity there is strength.”
Senior Marcos Gonzalez said seeing how many people came together for this event was “inspirational.”
Asheley Sylvestre, a senior, said she thinks the rally will have a positive effect and raise awareness of the issue because of media circulation. “It’s the first big step into getting the justice we deserve,” she said.