The Race and Social Justice Initiative

The Race and Social Justice Initiative at the College of Charleston was founded in late June 2015 following a major grant from Google in response to tragic events in the Charleston, including the shooting death of Walter Scott by a police officer in April 2015 and the mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015.

The mission of the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) at the College of Charleston is to promote public awareness and dialogue about race and social justice issues in the Charleston area, the state of South Carolina, and beyond, through a collaborative effort led by the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, Addlestone Library, the African American Studies Program, the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI), and multiple community partners.

Events

From the RSJI Blog

Statement from the College of Charleston’s Black Student Union

 

To Whom It May Concern:

As students of the College of Charleston, we aim to be in an environment that is conducive to learning because it is safe, engaging, diverse, healthy, and secure. As of right now, many students of color and others do not feel this way due to the continuous acts of prejudice, violence, and white supremacy on our campus, as well as in the Charleston community. Each year we are reminded of white supremacy and violence here at The College. A few of these acts include the racially charged shooting of nine innocent members of Mother Emanuel AME Church, a supporter of the Confederate Flag being the face of The College, continual displays of Confederate flags around campus, and being survivors of racially motivated hate speech and actions. We desire to feel safe and welcome in every realm, but unfortunately, that has not been the case.

As we all know, costumes are a tradition of Halloween. There are many costume ideas such as animals or cartoon characters. Although this may seem obvious, it has come to our attention that there are students at The College who do not understand this concept and have rather created costumes that mock dead Black bodies and Black culture all while using racial slurs. Sam Weinick and Gianna Trombetta are responsible for these actions. Photos are attached below for reference.

Students are seen wearing orange jumpsuits assumed to represent those in jail. Sam Weinick is shown wearing the name “Freddie Gray” on his back with the caption, “Ur going to jail tonight,” which was posted onto Snapchat by Gianna Trombetta (her username appears in the left-hand corner). There is a subsequent photo with a student who has not been identified yet, but this student is pictured with “Nigger” written on his back. Not only is this behavior disrespectful and demeaning to Black students here at The College, but it is also dehumanizing and mocks the Americans who are victims of police brutality and those who are grieving the lives lost due to the blatant lack of respect towards Black bodies.

If you do not know, on April 19, 2015, 25-year-old, Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr. became a deceased victim of police brutality. On April 12, 2015, Mr. Gray was detained by Baltimore Police Department and transported in a police van. Unfortunately, Mr. Gray never made it to the police department. Instead, he was transported to a trauma center where they attempted to treat him for spinal cord injuries that he sustained while in custody. Six officers were linked to the incident and suspended without pay. His death was ruled a homicide. The six officers were indicted on various charges to include second-degree murder. None of the officers were found guilty on their charges as some charges were dropped. The death of Mr. Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr. was detrimental and causes emotional distress amongst the Black communities and those who understand the outcomes of continuous acts of police brutality in America.

As students of the College of Charleston, we come to you in solidarity to ask that the students involved in this incident be reprimanded through indefinite expulsion. These students actions negatively reflect The College amongst the many other negatives it causes for students who attend and pay tuition. More than 500 Americans have lost their lives to police brutality this year alone. The actions taken by these students are a mockery of these lives and those who are grieving. The death of Mr. Gray is similar to the death of a loved one. Many of us feel this way and believe that the actions of these students is immoral and must be taken seriously. These are unacceptable behaviors that should not be tolerated. In these times, the disrespectful actions committed by these students cannot merely occur out of sheer ignorance. They occur because some people have a genuine disrespect for Black people and feel that Black culture is an open market of various elements to pick from and discard after use. Feeling safe is not being subjected to being viewed as objects and costumes that can be used to ridicule already marginalized communities.

We, as a student body, are concerned about the values The College of Charleston upholds. We acknowledge that there is a need for change in these values. We are seeking dignified actions against acts of white supremacy, as they are necessary for all to understand that appropriate actions that should be taken in these very serious matters such as this. This is not a matter of agreement or disagreement on a controversial topic, but rather one of values, morals, respect, and dignity. These actions should not be seen as conducive to the values that the College of Charleston aims to uphold and therefore should not be defended, nor allowed and subsequently reprimanded.

As well, additional action has been taken up on this matter to include the notification of distinguished news outlets.

Best,

Bria Dantzler, Founder and Senior Director
Luminescent, Community Outreach Organization

La’Nasa Clarkson, President
Black Student Union
Avery Research Center for African American History Culture

Tia Dye, Vice President
Black Student Union

 

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