American University students use Black Power symbol as sign of defiance.
American University students use Black Power symbol as a sign of defiance. Courtesy of Ted Chaffman.

After a series of racially related incidents at American University, Howard University students stood in solidarity with American students this past Monday at Mary Graydon Center by attending a protest organized by American’s Black Student Alliance (BSA).

Although the protest was a result of previous incidents, the catalyst occurred in two separate instances at Anderson Hall where two black freshmen students were physically and verbally harassed with banana peels and racial slurs by white males. One girl had a banana thrown into her dorm room while the other found rotten bananas placed outside her door and pictures of male genitalia on a whiteboard hanging outside her room.

As a former American student and current Howard student, sophomore Joshua Noel Rivera shared his thoughts about his former school and why he decided to emerge himself into Monday’s protest:

“I went in support of my fellow students of color to show them that even though I left American, I am still with them and will do what I can to help make a change. While I never felt at home there and am no longer a student, I really went there to support my friends and the organizations on American’s campus who are pushing to make a change.”

According to a few American students, BSA’s protest did not come as a shock. Ajani Skeete, a sophomore at American mentions:

“These hate crimes are layered on top of previous scandals and the general non-compliance with the administration. I can get expelled if I copy and paste a sentence from Wikipedia but not for committing a hate crime, and that is disgusting.” 

Rivera recalls:

“In the past, messages were written on whiteboards in student lounges and on personal whiteboards saying “N*gger.” The issue has gone beyond just black students. Students with Latin American backgrounds have had Trump stickers posted on their doors, Asian Americans have had messages such as “chink” written on their whiteboards. The accumulation of all of these events – and the administration’s lack of acknowledgment – led to the rally at the school.”

Although the heads of BSA held the stage for most of the protest, students, specifically of color were presented with an open space to speak out about their experiences at American. The BSA voiced their concerns about the lack of diversity initiatives on campus following a list of demands read including the immediate suspension of the aggressors and hiring more professors of color. A Recent victim, Neah Gray, spoke on her expectations at American and was disturbed at the recent race-related events she and others have experienced.

Just as Howard students stood in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri last November, Rivera, like many others, advocated against racism and discrimination to let American students understand that although Howard and American are two different universities, it is still the same fight.