By Rachel Stevens
This past week, a possibly racially-charged incident occurred on the third floor of Ryan Hall, a freshman girls dorm. As part of the North Neighborhood 2 community, Ryan Hall is a traditional style dormitory with shared hallway bathrooms on each floor. Political signs posted anonymously by students in the hallways and bathrooms were written on, altered, or removed by other students.
Residents are not sure who first crossed out “Black Lives Matter” and replaced it with “All Lives Matter” on a poster affixed to one bathroom mirror. No one is sure as to why the poster made it into the bathroom in the first place, but people on the floor who support the Black Lives Matter movement were not thrilled to see the altered poster. This started a paper war. Messages left anonymously flew back and forth for a few days on the posters.
One freshman resident and politics major on the top floor, Regina Brennan, was comfortable coming forward with her feelings as a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I didn’t expect political posters to be put up in the dorm anyway. Since I’m a supporter of BLM, of course I was not personally offended. I respect that some people may not understand the movement fully,” Brennan said. “What did upset me was the Snapchat videos some girls on the floor posted of the posters being vandalized and torn down. That was the immature and upsetting aspect.”
In response to tensions on the floor, Resident Assistants junior Katherine Doolin and sophomore Michela Caffrey brought in a speaker from the Center for Cultural Engagement (CCE). The three pillars of the CCE are “a sense of self, a sense of place, and a sense of responsibility”; the organization aims to increase awareness of heritage, culture, and diversity on the Catholic University campus in response to these three pillars.
The CCE is known to host many discussions about race and racial tensions. Discussions have been held about the Black Lives Matter movement in the past, so this was a familiar conversation for the speaker, Dr. Ferentz Lafargue.
In the email blast, the optional floor meeting was described as, “an info session/respectful discussion about the Black Lives Matter movement”, with Lafargue present to answer any questions the girls had.
Lafargue is a very well established and educated professor here at Catholic University. In addition to his directorial position at CCE, he teaches a class called “African American History from the Voting Rights Act to Black Lives Matter” at Catholic. He has multiple degrees, including a PhD in African American and American Studies from Yale University.
Despite the great opportunity, the event was lightly attended on Sunday night. For whatever reason, the event was attended by approximately ten residents of Ryan Hall. Those who went found the discussion very open and comfortable. Lafargue presented information about the movement’s history, roots, and modern meaning. Following the information session, he pointed the discussion towards the attendees and their questions/concerns. The event lasted a little more than an hour.
Doolin and Caffrey are thinking of having more speakers come in the future, or having more open and respectful discussions amongst the residents in a safe environment. Overall, there appears to be no foul language or racial slurs being used. The problem arose merely from girls who have different political opinions about the Black Lives Matter movement.
The RAs assured the residents that they would continue to promote a welcoming and loving environment in the North Neighborhood 2 community.