Black Student Union holds peaceful protest on campus for Juneteenth

Rowan community members march down Rowan Boulevard in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement on Juneteenth 2020. - Editor-in-Chief / Kalie VanDewater

Please do not tell me ‘If you’re not happy, just leave,’ when my country…was ripped from the grass of Native Americans, and built off the blood, screams and scared backs of Black men, women and children.

Chase Campbell, senior advertising major

On Friday, June 19, Rowan’s chapter of the Black Student Union (BSU) hosted a peaceful protest as people across the U.S. showed their support of the Black community in the fight against injustice and police brutality. The event was sponsored by Rowan’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), which distributed shirts prior to the march.

The march began at Glassboro town square. Students and alumni of Rowan’s music education program played music, which cued the procession down Rowan Boulevard and Route 322 and ended on Bunce Green.

With over 100 people in attendance, the protest featured speeches from students and other members of the Rowan community who were strongly impassioned about fighting for justice. 

Among the event’s main speakers was rising senior advertising major and BSU member Chase Campbell, who is also president of the Rowan University Advertising Club and co-founder of Rowan’s Men of Color Alliance. In his speech, Campbell described the growing consciousness around systemic racial injustice that reached a breaking point on the day George Zimmerman, killer of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, was acquitted by the jury of the 18th Judicial Circuit Court of Seminole County, Florida.

This day also happened to be Campbell’s fourteenth birthday.

“This was the night I acknowledged, with a heavy heart, realized the true danger of being Black in the United States,” Campbell said of Zimmerman’s acquittal. “The events of the past two weeks are important to us. The so-called ‘American Dream’ is actually the African-American nightmare. Time and time again, we are traumatically reminded of how little our lives are valued in this ‘land of the free.’ Please do not tell me ‘If you’re not happy, just leave,’ when my country…was ripped from the grass of Native Americans, and built off the blood, screams, and scared backs of Black men, women, and children. And 400 years later, we still get the short end of the stick.”

Rising senior Chelsea Dunkley, a communications major, said that her attendance was inspired by her anger at the murder of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, an emergency room technician who was shot at least eight times by Louisville police after they entered her home with a no-knock warrant while she was in bed. By protesting, Dunkley specifically brought awareness to issues that Black women face.

“I feel like when Black women get attacked by police brutality, they’re not talked about enough,” Dunkley said. “When Black men get punished by police brutality, it’s handled. When females, just like Sandra Bland, get [murdered], they sweep them under the rug and nobody talks about them anymore. Like, ‘Oh it happened to a female, let’s get over it.’ No, we cannot get over it.”

“As a Black female,” Dunkley continued, “God forbid if I ever get attacked by police brutality, my family is never going to end it until I get justice. Justice is needed for Black women. Black women are always supporting Black men, but it’s not reciprocated in this community, and we need to stop that. So Breonna Taylor will get justice as long as I have breath in my body.”

The event was not only dedicated to mourning the Black lives lost to police violence and other acts of white supremacy; it was also to celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the day when Black slaves in Texas learned of their freedom, two whole years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. To harness the sounds of celebration, senior music education major Sa’eed Abui II and music education alumni John Andrelczyk and Mike Massaro led the march with vibrant brass instrumentals.

“Seeing everything on Instagram, it brings you down seeing people die because of police brutality,” said Abui II. He was contacted to play for the march after posting a video of himself attending a previous protest on Instagram. “I believe that music brings this different light and energy to this, and you’re not just marching around screaming because you’re angry. Music brings a more positive vibe and energy.”

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