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Black Lives Matter founders met with racism

By Angela Hatcher, For The Miami Student

Monday morning, Mona-Mae Juwillie was sitting on her bed scrolling through Yik Yak. She was horrified by what she saw.

"If there was a movement called white lives matter it would be shot down immediately even though it would be the same damn thing as black lives matter. The black community is the most racist now."


"As a white student I enjoy this school as it is mainly white upper middle class students like me. If I went to a historically black college I would feel like I was discriminated against."

And another:

"We give black people prime inner city living locations so that they are set up to succeed. But they don't even have to work for it, it's just given to them. Just like the month of February."

Juwillie, a sophomore, was quick to exit out of the app. She sat, shocked as she processed what her peers - what her fellow Miamians - were saying.

Monday evening, 7:30 p.m., marked the moment Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, were to speak on behalf of Miami's Lecture Series in Hall Auditorium, the event that sparked all the backlash on Yik Yak.

Lana Kay Rosenberg, associate professor of dance and Lecture Series Committee chair, said those behind the posts don't understand the purpose of the movement.

"No. 1, it isn't 'Only Black Lives Matter,' it is Black Lives Matter," she said. "If this person would've gone to the lecture - quite sure that this person did not - and had stayed through the whole lecture, they would've heard the message from the founders."

The night of the event, Garza, Tometi and Cullors did not tiptoe around the subject. They addressed the criticism of their hashtag head on.

"Questions come up to us a lot about ... 'All Lives Matter,' so let's just deal with that," Garza said. "What? You'll say it on Yik Yak tomorrow, but won't say it now?"

After much audience applause, Cullors chuckled

"Yak this," she said.

"All lives do matter," Garza said. "We are all working for a world where every single person's life does matter. But that's not the world we live in right now. So to deny the existence of a phenomenon where some lives actually do matter more than others means that you refuse to be grounded in reality."

Juwillie stood after this moment and applauded the three founders along with the 700 other people who attended the event.

Yet, even in the days following the lecture, people were still taking to Yik Yak to publicize their thoughts.

Patricia Newberry, senior lecturer and member of the Lecture Series Committee, says that she is not surprised there was pushback on the app.

"People feel like they have license to speak when they have a veil of anonymity," she said. "There are very few people who would say this in a public setting."

Newberry said there is no place for posts like those on Yik Yak.

"Jokes about 'prime inner city living'... the month of February joke ... not funny," she said. "The reasons are clear why we need a Black Lives Matter movement...those are things that our guests addressed so well, so directly."

Tammy L. Brown, assistant professor in the Global and Intercultural Studies Department, said those who did not attend the lecture and do not fully understand the movement need to understand a couple things.

"White students who interpret the Black Lives Matter movement as a racist and separatist endeavor are wrong on two main fronts," Brown said. "The history of white supremacy in America and throughout the world ... has given birth to current-day racial profiling, police brutality and murder of unarmed black citizens."

Brown said that the Black Lives Matter movement is not just a black American movement.

"All Americans should be outraged regarding the murder of unarmed black citizens," Brown said. "And anyone can join the movement - anyone who is willing to fight for social justice and believes in the fundamental equality of all humankind."

Thursday afternoon, Juwillie sat with her phone beside her. She hasn't opened Yik Yak since Monday morning

But the posts have been weighing on her mind.

"We've been suppressed for so long," Juwillie said. "The black community is standing up once more to say enough is enough. We are fighting to just coexist. Black Lives Matter matters. That's the truth."