New exhibit encourages students to be social activists

A new exhibit at the Black Archives deals with police violence against men of color.
Photo Submitted by Jakeira Gilbert

Tiffany Packer and the African-American History to the 20th Century Class hosted their “New Age Lynching: Police Brutality and its Effects on Communities of Color” exhibit grand opening Tuesday at the Black Archives.

The exhibit followed an intense panel discussion focusing on the causes and effects of racial profiling, and the social and economic status of the Black community. The speakers also talked to students about how to properly act in situations with law enforcement.

Many pieces that students considered “powerful” and a representation of the fight against social injustice and police brutality covered the exhibition room. This included protest pictures from staple police brutality cases such as the murder of Tamir Rice and Philando Castile, family pictures of adults and children who lost their lives from police gunfire, and public figures who’ve voiced their concerns about police brutality, like rapper Meek Mill.

“Hearing police brutality makes me think of the Black community,” Ayrianna Jackson, a freshman pre-cardiopulmonary science major, said. The repercussions of wrongfully gunning someone of color down are slim to none.”

“The opening of the ‘New Age Lynching’ exhibit to me means that people are realizing and actually trying to take action for the crimes against black men and women. This will expose college students to important events that occurred in Black history, because lynching is continuing in a new way. Technology is progressing and the epidemic of police brutality is a way of lynching now.”

Freshman psychology major Takiya Smith believes that social media has hindered many citizens from effectively taking action on social injustices, and that a huge self-transformation must be made to change that.

“I feel as young Black people, we need to take the initiative to make a change,” Smith said. “Even though many people think just posting on social media is a way to make change, I think that kind of numbs us as a Black community. I feel like we need to go to our senators or go to our police chiefs and go in our own community and try to make a change a enlighten each other.”

Some of these cases hit closer to home for students. Danielle Tate, a Chicago native and professional MBA candidate’s art piece focused on the murder of Laquan McDonald.  

“I chose Laquan McDonald because he was born and raised in Chicago, and his case really spoke volumes to me because that actually could’ve been my brother, my nephew, my father, or my uncles,” Tate said.

McDonald was a 17-year-old who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014, after Van Dyke claimed McDonald was behaving erratically while walking down the street with a folding knife. When the police dash cam footage was released, it showed McDonald walking away from the officer when he was shot.

Tate also noted that her recent internship with the Chicago City Council under Mayor Rahm Emanuel motivated her to become more of an activist for her community, with the ultimate goal of fighting to shift the judicial system to help the Black community.

De’Terius Parker, panelist and a senior political science major, thinks that overall, presenting this exhibit to the campus will make a huge impact in the Rattler community.

“It’s just very significant for us to remember what’s going on and to stay present of what’s going on now, and not get complacent and content,” Parker said. “I’m very happy that we decided to have it here on campus, because it helps us with the new generation of students that are coming in who aren’t too aware of what’s going on, and don’t necessarily watch the news as much as someone else who works a nine to five and just wants to come home and watch the news.”

Overall, many of the faculty were extremely proud of the outcome of the New Age Lynching exhibit and are excited to see the long-term effect it has on students, including the creator of this event, Packer said.

“The impact is two-fold. One is that this work lets us know that it’s still work to be done. That civil rights is still a work in progress, and that we have not yet arrived,” Packer said. “The good news though is that we can still work toward it, which is the second goal for this project – to inspire students to understand that they can be a part of the narrative.

“Students have to understand that they can be elevated beyond just students and that they came become student activists, ” she added.