Blackout March for Justice to be held virtually


Blackout March for Justice to be held virtually

The Cortland Black Student Union (BSU) and Cortland Black Lives Matter will take a stand with the Blackout March for Justice in a virtual conference on Monday, Oct. 26.

The conference, from 6 to 8 p.m., is open to everyone.

For access to the Webex link, contact Cortland BSU president Shaneya Simmelkjaer of Bronx, N.Y., a senior triple major in criminology, political science and Africana studies.

“The purpose is to achieve social, economic, and political justice for Black people in America which has, historically, and still is, being denied to them,” Simmelkjaer said.

Participants will wear all black to show solidarity for the cause, she said. The meeting will consist of speeches and performances followed by a dialogue.

Shaneya Simmelkjaer

President Erik J. Bitterbaum will speak first, followed by local community activist Melissa Kiser from Cortland Black Lives Matter, Simmelkjaer, and senior dual Africana Studies and sociology major Rebekah Barrett of Ithaca, N.Y., singing the Black National Anthem. Afterward, the participants will view videos of recent protests together and discuss and analyze them. The videos chronicle the unjust deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as protestors arguing for defunding the police.

Following the discussion, participants will each create protest signs and explain what they wrote.

The event will conclude with a spoken word poem by Keona Gray-Outlaw, a senior professional writing major from Brooklyn, N.Y.

“I wanted to dedicate this piece to the disruptive peace that these murders have caused,” said Gray-Outlaw. “There’s no need for filtering my language in a society that has only one lens it looks through. This is just as raw, descriptive and painful as this feeling I’ve felt every day is.”

This is the latest program from BSU, which has been active throughout the semester. Currently the organization hosts programs every Monday. For the upcoming virtual march, the 50-member club is working in collaboration with Cortland Black Lives Matter. Together, they hope to start a conversation among students, faculty and Cortland community members.

Blackout Day is a national, social media-promoted event in which all supporters of the Black Lives Matter Movement are encouraged to not spend any money for a full day in hopes of attaining attention and resolve to end police brutality and racism towards Black people.

It encourages the posting of content that was created by and features Black creators. Specific hashtags — e.g. #TheBlackout and #BlackoutDay2020 — are used to connect users to that content and to increase the visibility of that content.

Blackout Day launched on March 6, 2015. Blackout Day 2020, July 7, 2020, received widespread attention as a result of the killing of George Floyd, the shooting of Breonna Taylor, the death of Elijah McClain and other victims.

In Simmelkjaer’s mind, the purpose of holding the event now is clear.

“I want to raise awareness of the police brutality and racism in the United States and to take action,” she said. “We take after our grandparents and great-grandparents’ activism in the civil rights movement, so we want to bring that energy to Cortland, and we’ve been bringing it for years now.”

Prepared by Communications Office writing intern Nicholas Boyer