Thursday, January 29, 2015

3,600 seconds before a silent march at SIUE

Lovejoy Library. Tuesday, January 20.

12:37 pm. A group of three friends are somewhat nervous about an upcoming test. Classes began only a week ago, and yet here they were, in the library, looking over notes with an intensity usually reserved for mid-term and final examinations. Of course, it’s a different kind of test, so they’re checking and double-checking that they have all the supplies that they need.

12:38 pm. Scissors. Did we send out enough messages? Black tape. Will people show up? Pens and markers. Does everyone know where to meet? A list of names: Tamir Rice. Mike Brown. Trayvon Martin, etc. What if no one shows up? A clear path through Lovejoy. Will just the three us have to do it by ourselves? A table for a staging area outside. Did we send out enough messages?

Silent march co-organizers: Kalyn Jones, Kimberly Pope, and Kiana Neely

12:46 pm. Kimberly Pope, Kiana Neely, and Kalyn Jones are still in the library. They glance at their phones, making sure they catch any last-minute texts with questions. Also, gotta watch the time. 

12:55 pm. Who knew so much preparation went into a silent march?

1:12 pm. At different and overlapping moments, Kiana, Kimberly, and Kalyn recall how they got to this point. It was all the organizing and promotional efforts over the weekend. Or, before that, it was the day of devising a concrete plan on Thursday. Or, before that, it was the extended conversation late Wednesday night about the need to “do something.” Before that, earlier Wednesday, they had seen Selma.
And before that, they had thought and talked for more than a year about challenges facing African American students. They were in fact all drawn to Health Education as a major because of what they learned about how professionals in the field could potentially address a range of ailments, not merely physical, in struggling communities.

1:20 pm There’s a thin line between excitement and nervousness, and at this very moment, Kimberly, Kiana, and Kalyn resemble a trio of tightrope walkers.

1:26 pm. The turnout is so-so. Not as much as they had hoped. It’s still early, they keep telling themselves. More people will show. Won’t they?

1:30 pm. “Here’s the tape. You can write the name of someone who was killed as a result of police violence on these name stickers. We're lining up over there. Thanks for showing up,” say Kiana, Kalyn, and Kimberly to dozens of people.

1:32 pm. The turnout is good. Just what we expected, they tell themselves.

1:34 pm. Excitement/nervousness. A trio of tightrope walkers. 

1:36 pm. Black Student Union president Corinthian Holts is there. He’s always so laid back, they’ve noticed. It’s good to have a calming presence like him right here at this moment.

1:38 pm. The turnout has exceeded any of their expectations.

1:43 pm. Kimberly and Kiana are signaling that they are just about ready. They’ve agreed to make sure things run smoothly at the middle and back of the line. To onlookers and even participants, the two students simply blend in with everyone else.

1:47 pm. Kimberly and Kiana give the signals. It’s now or never. Kalyn takes a deep breath and begins the silent march.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very nice account of the planning. Very inspirational. So proud of our SIUE students!