Black female students at St. Olaf organized an event to support Breonna Taylor and other Black women killed by police after the Louisville grand jury failed to indict the officers responsible for Taylor’s death.
Mariam Prater ’23 organized the event titled “In Solidarity with Louisville,” with support from Black Ensemble. On Sept. 25, Black women on campus created a space on the steps of Boe Memorial Chapel to support each other, read poems and speak about their experiences on campus and in the U.S as Black women.
“I think it was important to do something to support Louisville,” Prater said. “I thought it would be a moment for Black people, Black women, specifically to let out a bunch of their frustrations.”
The event opened with student-led singing of the Black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Speakers then took turns reading poetry, giving words of encouragement to other Black students and sharing the struggles of being a Black woman on campus. Prater aimed to create a space for Black students to converse with each other, a space that can be difficult to create on a predominately white campus, said Prater.
“It was not a protest … I wanted this event to be unfiltered a space for Black women to say, ‘I’m f****** tired, that’s what I wanted it to be and that’s what it turned out to be,” Prater said.
Following the speakers, the microphone was opened to other Black students who offered support to Black women. Prater closed the event with an invitation to any Black students who feel like they do not have a community at St Olaf. The event ended with Black students dancing and laughing.
Following the event, Tashonna Douglas ’21 formed a group message for Black women on campus to further create a community and support system. Prater cites the lack of representation within the administration, the President’s Leadership Team, the Taylor Center and Boe House as part of the ongoing struggles of being a Black woman on campus. This lack of representation creates a need for the kind of community that Douglas and Prater have sought to create.
“It’s hard, it’s so hard to find someone to talk to,” Prater said. “This event means setting a precedent for us to be there for each other, to support each other.”
This event was led by and specifically planned for Black female students and open to all students. They filled the quad, along with faculty, looking to show support and listen.
“I wanted it to be a safe place for Black women so that they know that other Black women are there for them and that they are supported on this campus and that’s what it was,” Prater said.