UMD Black Male Athletes Rally Hundreds to March Against Police Brutality, Racism
It's the first protest of its kind in the University's history, organized by a group called Black Men Serving Excellence (BMSE)
DULUTH, Minn.- Hundreds of UMD students, staff, and community members organized by Black male athletes at the school marched nonviolently Wednesday, with a loud and clear message spanning the whole campus to end police brutality and racism.
“We are gathered here today to come together as people, we are gathered here today to fight for equality,” said UMD Defensive Backs Football Coach Marcus McLin, one of the main organizers.
Chants of “No Justice, No Peace” and “Black Lives Matter!” echoed around UMD buildings.
It’s the first protest of its kind in the University’s history, organized by a group called Black Men Serving Excellence (BMSE).
“We just wanna be heard. You see it on the shirts. We won’t be silenced. We just want to be heard honestly. We wanna be heard and acknowledged and respected,” said Michael Kirkendoll, who works social media for BMSE.
The group was formed just last fall, after UMD football players visited children at Laura MacArthur Elementary School in West Duluth.
“It started off with the student athletes on the Football Team, then it broadened out to other non-athletes so it’s just regular students, also the basketball team people,” said Chamere Thomas, in charge of community outreach.
They are hoping to reach out to other young black males in the community and help them change the narrative.
“We’re not just not trying to show people we’re just like a little organization, we’re here to help out the community, reach out to the youth, build up the youth so one day we can start them young and make sure they come up into a positive outcome,” Thomas said.
Group members say they want to focus on fighting the bias they and others feel as students in Duluth, before taking the movement even bigger.
“I think a lot of the time things that we go through here at school are microaggressions, what we call microaggressions,” said Kirkendoll. “Things that people don’t specifically do on purpose but do without thought.”
Microaggressions, they say they’ve felt on-campus and around the city. “When you go into the store a lot of people watching you and that’s really because you’re a person of color,” Thomas said.
And it’s stereotypes like that, the young men said, that can be the difference between life and death for black men across the country.
“I am not a threat, they are not a threat,” said McLin, the faculty in charge of BMSE. “We shouldn’t have to change who we are.”
So they rallied peacefully, distancing themselves from violence and intimidation.
“We’re not here to cause violence, we’re not here fighting against, we’re not fighting them,” one marcher said. “We’re not fighting cops, we’re not fighting white people — we’re just fighting to be equal, we’re just fighting for the right to be equal that’s all.”
Marching around the entire campus Wednesday with a crowd hundreds strong, the group says they see the beginnings of progress.
“I love how the community backing up us, and how the school is backing up us, and I see how a lot of people are showing up and they understand what’s really going on,” Thomas said.
Those Black Men Serving Excellence say that this shows the world is ready for black men to be more than what they say society wants them to be.
“I just really want to knock down the stereotypes. We’re not just really held against being athletes and criminals,” said Thomas.
“I think when they look at us on the field they’re gonna be like: they’re not one-sided athletes — these kids and these people have minds, they have feelings, they have hearts,” Kirkendoll said.