Students take action from home

Protesting in a pandemic takes creativity, but Quinnipiac students are finding a way to make it happen

Emily DiSalvo and Tim Powers

Quinnipiac students are separated by summer vacation and a deadly virus, but some are still trying to find a way to take action and denounce racism.

On May 25, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin when the officer placed his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Three other police officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao stood by and watched as Chauvin murdered Floyd. The events were filmed and shared across social media, igniting a wave of protests that shines light not just on how Floyd was treated, but how black Americans are routinely treated.

Michael Clement

Over 40 student leaders along with Quinnipiac administrators decided to get together to use their social media platforms to organize a fundraiser to support Black Lives Matter, as well as to plan social justice related programming that will be on campus this coming fall.

Mary Gerdenich, a senior political science major and director of engagement and marketing at the Quinnipiac Political Science Association, came up with the idea to get QU students involved as soon as she watched the video of Floyd’s murder. 

“I could not sit back and only spread a message of support through social media platforms,” Gerdenich said. “I needed to step up as an ally to the black community who is and has gone through so much due to the racial injustices that still exist in our country.”

Gerdenich teamed up with other student leaders like Isabella Diaz, a senior psychology major and president of the QU Psychology club. Together, they decided to design and sell t-shirts and masks with symbols and quotes related to black empowerment.  This was the start of a new student organization which they decided to call “Enough is Enough.”

Initially, student leaders like Diaz and Gerdenich thought that various student organizations and clubs could pool their funding to help design and purchase the shirts. However, when Diaz posted on social media asking other student leaders if they would be interested in collaborating, the response was overwhelming.

Michael Clement

“It means a lot to see students that aren’t black or aren’t a minority that haven’t necessarily experienced this type of prejudice, that they are still able to show through their social media platform and they are doing their part in advocating for the lives that have been silenced for so long,” Diaz said. 

Diaz realized that there was so much interest in the cause that she could get the Quinnipiac administration involved in the production of the t-shirts and masks to maximize profit.

Student leaders met with Quinnipiac administration this week to discuss ways that the campus can become a more inclusive environment. 

“As a predominantly white institution, it is just as important for them to spread awareness and publicly share support for the Black Lives Matter movement,” Diaz said.

Michael Clement

Diaz added that Quinnipiac has recently been taking steps to address racism on campus, including President Olian’s decision to make inclusive excellence one of the pillars of her strategic plan, but she said this must be followed up with action.

“There comes a time when talking about it and saying that they want it isn’t enough, and that is why I have taken my role as a student leader to bring these concerns to higher administration,” Diaz said.

Gerdenich said that as a white person it is important for her and other white people at Quinnipiac to recognize their privilege.

“As a white woman and student at QU, I recognize it could be easy to ignore the issue because it makes white individuals uncomfortable or doesn’t affect them, but this only makes the problem worse,” Gerdenich said. “We are all human beings, and we are all a part of a community at QU with the duty to stand up for our brothers and sisters when they need our support.”

To get involved with Enough is Enough, visit their Instagram page @quenoughisenough. 

From @quenoughisenough

Outside of QU, how can you help?

There are various ways you can contribute to the efforts of justice and change for black lives. If you are posting on social media, that is great, but taking action in other ways will fuel real change.

One of the most important things you can do to contribute to change is to educate yourself at all times. Renata Abiali, a junior nursing major, said people need to understand the impact of race. 

“People need to acknowledge that a majority of what we do in our world comes back to race,” Abiali said. “It all circles back to that because this country and several other countries were built on racist ideologies and mentalities, additionally, on the backs of black, native and immigrant people.” 

Michael Clement

Quinnipiac student leaders agree it is important to understand your position and your privilege and how that affects those around you. On social media, many are encouraging followers and friends to use their voice and their platform to amplify marginalized black voices because silence is ultimately a privilege.

You can educate yourself through a variety of sources such as Black Lives Matter, Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” and Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary “13th.” These are just a few examples, but it does not stop here. There are many ways to listen to black voices instead of talking over them. 

Helping the cause and getting educated does not stop with yourself. Amanda Gil, a junior computer science major, is helping those around her make sure they understand the issues.

“I am trying to educate my family on this matter,” Gil said. “I am teaching the older generations, who are only exposed to media platforms like the news, about the one-sided message that is being portrayed.” 

For those that are able, attending a protest is one way to make your voice heard. MiriYam Judd, a senior journalism major, protested in solidarity with the black community on May 30, in Philadelphia. Judd said attending the protest was scary, but worthwhile and necessary. 

“The scarier they get, the more important I know they are to go to,” Judd said. “Cops are literally trapping protestors and gassing them — grabbing them by their hair and macing them in the face. But nothing necessary ever came easily. I’d be lying if I said I weren’t scared, but, at the end of the day, I don’t think that matters.”

Cops are literally trapping protestors and gassing them — grabbing them by their hair and macing them in the face. But nothing necessary ever came easily. I’d be lying if I said I weren’t scared, but, at the end of the day, I don’t think that matters.”

— MiriYam Judd, senior

Some students like Gillian Barrins, a junior mechanical engineering major, are donating and sharing information on social media from home.

“I have donated, posted on social media and plan on doing more,” Barrins said. “The world cannot accept what has happened to the innocent people murdered by the police. Change must happen, and we need to be loud enough so those that can create change hear us.” 

If you have the financial resources, donating to the cause is one powerful way to help. There are so many different organizations on the frontlines fighting for justice. Do research on each organization and what causes each support. Some great organizations to donate to are Black Lives Matter, Reclaim the Block, the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which fight to protect and preserve the rights and interests of black people. You can also contribute to the official GoFundMe for the family of George Floyd. There are many more places you can support as well.

Petitions are another important way to enact change. Signing a petition only takes a couple of minutes and keeps pressure on our political leaders to respond to injustice. Here are a few of the many petitions circulating social media and the internet right now: 

In addition, you can contact your local elected representatives and demand change and accountability of the criminal justice system. Contact information of your local elected officials is public information and can easily be found through a quick Google search. 

Please be aware that COVID-19 is still spreading, so remember to wear a mask if you attend a protest. In addition, wear eyewear to protect against possible tear gas. Please only bring essential items and know your rights. 

During these traumatic and dangerous times, it is also important to take care of your mental health. Mahi Sugebo, a junior journalism major, says that in addition to using her platform to share resources she is promoting mental health. 

“I’ve been trying to promote the importance of black people’s mental wellness during a time like this by encouraging my black followers to prioritize themselves,” Sugebo said. “I’ve really been trying my best to help as much as I can.”

And you should be too. 

Even More Ways to Help:

Michael Clement

Petitions: 

Change.org petition to Justice for Geroge Floyd: https://t.co/XkiU3NrNWy

Colorofchange.org petition to charge officers involved: https://act.colorofchange.org/sign/justiceforfloyd_george_floyd_minneapolis/?source=dm_sms_optin_5-26-20

Change.org petition to raise the degree: https://www.change.org/p/minneapolis-district-attorney-raise-the-degree?recruiter=1098599238&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&utm_term=psf_combo_share_abi&recruited_by_id=960efe90-a206-11ea-8907-8fc7af712ec3

Change.org petition for Breonna Taylor: https://www.change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor

Change.org petition for Ahmaud Arbery: https://www.change.org/p/district-attorney-tom-durden-justice-for-ahmaud-arbery-i-run-with-maud?signed=true

Donations: 

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Official GoFundMe for the family of George Floyd: https://t.co/zkMmtL2rdd 

ACLU: https://action.aclu.org/give/aclu-response-covid-19

NAACP: https://www.naacpldf.org/

Reclaim the Block: https://www.reclaimtheblock.org/home