On Monday, Nov. 2, UMass Boston held its first annual Black Lives Matter Day.
The event will occur annually, with a new theme, a new installment to a mural, and a donation goal set for the George Floyd Scholarship fund at UMass Boston each year.
The theme for the very first Black Lives Matter Day at UMass Boston was “Setting the Foundation.”
The planning committee was headed up by Pilar Nelson, Community Director for the UMass Boston Office of Housing and Residential Life.
The inaugural BLM Day was made up of a hybrid of both in-person and virtual events. The in-person events took place inside the Residence Halls, and the virtual events were hosted on Zoom.
To kick off the day, Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco gave his declaration of BLM Day at UMass Boston and his opening remarks.
“[He] talked about the importance of BLM Day, and how it was going to be an integral step for creating equity and fostering a better environment and positive change for our campus,” recounted Nelson. About 91 people attended this event virtually.
Three virtual BLM seminars occurred throughout the day, each averaging about 50 attendees at a time.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., an in-person memorial was held in the East Hall Dining Commons. According to Nelson, the memorial was originally scheduled to last until 3 p.m. However, more residents wanted to see the tribute, so the memorial was extended.
The memorial was made up of donated artwork, collages, and a visual timeline of injustices against Black Americans throughout history.
“We had a BLM backdrop where residents were able to take pictures, so as they were grabbing their food and going in and out of the building, they were able to kinda see that memorial and be able to take it all in as an educational moment, and a reflective moment,” said Nelson.
At 12:30 p.m., the mural was unveiled live over Zoom. The creator of the mural, Lonnie Amado, is the Maintenance Supervisor for the Office of Housing and Residential Life. Amado spoke about his work during the mural reveal.
The day concluded with the BLM Virtual Ceremony, in which faculty member Dr. Joseph Cooper gave a keynote address. According to Nelson and UMass Boston News, Dr. Cooper spoke to how students can take part in changing UMass Boston for the better.
Additionally, the original donation goal set for the George Floyd Scholarship Fund at UMass Boston was $1,000. Over $1,600 was raised.
When asked how BLM Day at UMass Boston came about, Nelson spoke to the impact that the events of racial unrest over the summer had on the UMass Boston community.
“We decided to make an action plan to show our students that we are committed to them, and to really help foster an environment of true equity and inclusion,” said Nelson.
Nelson also spoke to how the remote nature of the semester affected the event.
“It was very difficult . . . with the pandemic, and with the Chancellor being new and trying to transition, the first question was: ‘How are we going to be able to take the ideas that we have, and make [them] accessible in a remote environment where people are virtually burned out?’” said Nelson.
Still, the planning committee persevered.
“We went in doing the best that we could; we were aware of some of the challenges, some of the things that went wrong, but we thought that not doing [anything] was not an acceptable action to take,” said Nelson. “So we went forward trying to see what we [could] do, and what we [could] offer physically, and we did that in the best way that we [could], and then we went forward with the things that we had to do virtually . . .”
Nelson reported that the committee got some “pretty great feedback,” but also some criticism as well.
“I think some of the criticism that we got was that a day wasn't enough to help with some of the racial equality, particularly some of the issues around anti-black racism, but I would argue that it is a step to helping with structural, systematic issues that face people of color, and that ultimately divide . . . our campus community,” said Nelson.
“Through recognizing this day, we can educate people, and we can also hold the institution accountable to ensure that our policies and the way that we're welcoming, and keeping our students, faculty and staff is in alignment to what we say that we are committed to,” continued Nelson.
“This is just one step to creating our campus to be more welcoming to people of all backgrounds, that it's not specifically about Black people per se, but it's one step that we're making to ensure that the campus can be inclusive to all,” Nelson concluded.
In order to see updates regarding Black Lives Matter Day at UMass Boston, visit https://www.umb.edu/blacklivesmatter.