Members of African/Black Student Alliance (A/BSA) gathered in Quarry Plaza to bring awareness to the mass police violence affecting the nation on Nov. 4. Around 40 students took turns lying on the ground atop construction paper cutouts lined with chalk outlines with the names of 15 different people of color who were either killed or victimized by police, written across the red paper.
A/BSA’s demonstration aimed to particularly draw attention to the fact that, according A/BSA, a black person dies every 28 hours. But this may be a low estimate due to lack of documentation. A/BSA co-chairs also said they deliberately honored these names because they were not as widely known as Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown.
“Many of these names — you look at the names you don’t recognize them,” said A/BSA political co-chair and spokesperson Basheera Ali-El. “Some of them I don’t even recognize because there are so many […] we’re just honoring these people.”
Students also shared testimony of the victims they represented. In between chants like “We must fight for our freedom” and “We have nothing to lose but our liberation,” members of the demonstration spoke of people like Joyce Quaweay, Joseph Mann and Alfred Olango.
According to The Washington Post, 40 percent of unarmed individuals shot and killed by police were black men in 2015, yet they only make up 6 percent of the nation’s population. And in routine traffic stops, black individuals are three times more likely to be handcuffed or arrested than people who identified as white.
“People are dying, and we either don’t know about it or we’re not remembering,” Ali-El said. “But this is people’s reality. Hopefully people can understand that this is black people’s reality, and this is what we go through.”
A/BSA demonstrators wanted to remind people that the demonstration was part of a larger goal to dismantle white supremacy and anti-blackness both at the university and within the larger community as a whole. They intend to work on issues like recruitment and retention of black students, possibly beginning a black studies program at UC Santa Cruz.
“[The university and students] just don’t care. It doesn’t concern them at all,” Ali-El said. “Not that it needs to. I don’t look for white approval and neither does this organization.”
While they aimed to raise awareness surrounding police violence, A/BSA expressed they were focused on sharing the names of people and voice support so no one would be forgotten.
“It was more so just to show visibility. I didn’t expect every single student to come and join the space or join the struggle of liberation,” Basheera Ali-El said.