Daily Egyptian

Black Male Roundtable marches for equality

By Shannon Allen, @ShannonAllen_DE

The Black Lives Matter campaign has become a popular and controversial topic on the Internet.

However, the campaign will not create the change people of color in America are seeking, according to Michael Smith, president of the Registered Student Organization Black Male Roundtable.

Smith, a junior from Chicago studying political science, led a student march Wednesday from Lawson Hall to the Student Center to speak out against injustices black students experience at the university.

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The RSO works to give black male students a chance to voice their opinions and interact with other black males, Smith said.

The organization’s goal for the march was to address the divide it sees in the black student population and to inform students of university policies that hinder black organizations, such as the large scale event policy.

The policy, created by former SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng in 2012, restricts RSO events to venues with a maximum capacity of 850 people. 

When the policy was enacted, Kappa Alpha Psi and Alpha Phi Alpha were the only two organizations hosting events that had more than 850 attendees.

“These happen to be two black Greek letter organizations, and they were responsible for hosting the largest events at the SIU Arena,” Smith said.

“I am black unapologetically. I am black. What do they expect of me? They want me to fall, they want me to fail, but with my brothers behind me, I will prevail,” the group chanted as they moved through campus.

Smith said he was told the march scared the administration.

“Apparently, every time a group of black people get together, something bad is bound to happen because supposedly, we’re angry at something,” Smith said to the crowd. “But guess what? We are. I’m pissed at the administration.”

Smith said the administration’s new bursar debt limit policy disproportionately harms black students because the change affects low-income students.

Smith acknowledged that he saw many student-leaders from several organizations on campus, including members of the undergraduate student government and presidents of RSOs.

“You are all people who care just a little more than the average person on campus,” Smith said. “It’s time for us to reach out to the average person and bring them to the table of leaders.”

After speaking, Smith led the group to Interim Chancellor William Bradley Colwell’s office to express concerns to him face-to-face.

Colwell was not available to speak with them, but the group left emails for him to speak with them.

Jimmy Ellis, a junior from Cairo studying communications, said since the university is predominantly white, the black student voice often goes unheard.

In 2014, there were more than 10,000 white students and more than 4,000 black students at the university, according to the SIU Factbook. 

“I marched today because I wanted to be a part of being heard,” Ellis said.

Cornell Brewer, a sophomore from Chicago studying criminal justice, said various issues are constantly brought to light, but never addressed.

“Students bring issues to administration and they say there will be changes made, but if you don’t keep following up with them, it will die down and nothing will change,” Brewer said.

Ellis said although black people have made many advancements in society through the years, racism is still alive.

“It’s still a war,” Ellis said. 

Shannon Allen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ShannonAllen_DE.

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