Black Out March seeks to raise awareness about race issues

November 13, 2015 By Greg Bump

Photo: Speaker addressing crowd

The Black Out March began with speeches on the steps of Bascom Hall.

Photos:

They came together by the hundreds on a blustery night on Bascom Hill in peaceful protest. University of Wisconsin–Madison students, faculty, staff and community supporters, of all colors and from diverse backgrounds, gathered on Nov. 12 to speak against injustice and to march in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri and other campuses across the nation.

The Black Out March, from the steps of Bascom Hall to the steps of the state Capitol, is the beginning of a movement to raise awareness about race issues at Mizzou and also in Madison, organizers said.

Photo: Large crowd listening to speaker

Hundreds of students and community members listened to speakers and prepared to process to the state Capitol.

“The biggest thing to highlight is our objective isn’t complete yet,” said Tyriek Mack, a UW–Madison sophomore and one of the organizers of the march. “We will continue to organize and mobilize students.”

Impassioned speakers told of the need for more institutional support from the university and for better opportunity for members of the black community in Dane County and all over Wisconsin. And they spoke about the racism they have encountered in this community.

Photo: Speaker with bullhorn

Impassioned speakers told of the need for more institutional support from the university.

“We’re here to lose our chains, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to do that,” one speaker urged the cheering crowd as it gathered to march.

Patrick Sims, vice provost and chief diversity officer in the Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement, said the student body of the University of Wisconsin–Madison has a rich and diverse history of activism beginning as early as the 1930s.

“The Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement and the Division of Student Life support all students in their efforts to raise awareness of the subtle and often veiled instances of social and racial inequalities experienced daily by people of color,” Sims said. “We encourage people of all backgrounds to engage in healthy and meaningful dialogues about the critical issues raised by students at the University of Missouri and our very own Wisconsin Badgers.”

Photo: Marchers carrying signs

Marchers expressed solidarity with black students protesting racism at the University of Missouri.

Mack and Marquise Mays, a fellow sophomore and organizer of the event, said one of their main goals is to establish a cultural competency program on campus.

“Cultural competency means being able to not be questioned about my race, who I am or why I am here, about my hair or the way I talk,” Mays said. “I should be looked at as a student. I need to be looked at like every other student.”

UW-Madison is engaged in a long-term effort to improve diversity, support students of color and end racism, Sims said.

Photo: Crowd marching toward Capitol

The crowd made its way down Bascom Hill and marched up State Street to the Capitol.

Several events have been scheduled to further the discussion, including:

  • The Center for Cultural Enrichment will host a Mizzou & Campus Racism Dialogue Nov. 13 at 3 p.m. in 125 Witte Hall.
  • UBUNTU, a discussion and support group for self-identified black students, meets biweekly in the Multicultural Student Center Classroom in the Red Gym at 6 p.m. This semester, remaining dates include Dec. 3 and10.

The chief diversity officer has a dedicated Student Advisory Board to hear student concerns. For more information, contact Lynnsey Jones at 608-890-3117 or email lynnsey.jones@wisc.edu.

Photo: Crowd member with sign

Organizers said the Black Out March is the beginning of a movement to raise awareness of racial issues at Mizzou and in our community.