Image Courtesy of The Nest
By Theresa Whitfield
Catholic University of America’s chapter of the Black Students Alliance (BSA) was the target of a hate crime on Tuesday afternoon after the defacement of its presentation for the Center for Cultural Engagement (CCE). The source of the attack has not yet been identified.
BSA President Myciah Brown began the presentation for CCE’s Civility Dialogues, a discussion series created with the intention to facilitate civil discourse about a wide range of topics. Approximately thirty people attended Tuesday afternoon’s session. BSA’s leadership team led the discussion titled “The Reality of Black Lives,” which included presentations on medical racism, mental health, generational wealth, black immigration, black and LGBTQ+ life expectancy, and black creativity.
Shortly after her introduction of the topics for the session, sophomore member of BSA’s leadership team Tyrica Edmonds-Miller began sharing slides for the presentation. As soon as Edmonds-Miller shared the slides with the audience, a racial slur appeared on the introductory slide, followed by a hateful phrase on the second slide.
Directly before her presentation, Edmonds-Miller checked over her slides a final time, and even closed out all of her other tabs on her computer as an extra precaution. Once the presentation began and she had seen the first slide, she became confused.
“Nobody had said anything at first, so I thought I was seeing things,” Edmonds-Miller said. “The following slide was worse and at that point, I started asking questions in the group chat to see if anyone else was seeing it and we ended up halting our presentation.”
Another incident occurred through the Zoom call’s chat function. A photo message, appearing to be from Kelly Woodson, vice president of BSA, had been sent to everyone on the call. Woodson herself had not sent the photo, so when she saw her name appear, she clicked on the photo, which opened to a vulgar sexual image.
The individual using Woodson’s name only appeared for a few minutes, with his or her camera turned off the entire time before exiting the call after the disturbance.
It is unclear as to whether Woodson’s account was hacked or if the individual simply changed his or her screen name to gain access to the slides.
The leadership team had completed its slides and looked them over before the call, and had seen none of the obscenities before the discussion went live. The individuals on the team were also the only ones with access to the presentation before the call. However, through Zoom’s sharing function, any individual present on a call will be able to actively edit slides while a presentation is happening, easily allowing for a breach.
The day following the incident, President Garvey, who was in attendance at the meeting, sent a note to the university community condemning the act.
“Racially charged speech is not tolerated at The Catholic University of America,” Garvey said. “This kind of behavior is disgraceful, cowardly, and unacceptable in this community.”
Javier Bustamante, director of CCE, sent a note to the students on the CCE’s mailing list also condemning the act. He then built upon his initial comments and praised the leadership of BSA and its quick response in the midst of the attack.
“I am honored to work with such resilient students, committed to engaging in much-needed conversations with the goal of effecting change on our campus and beyond,” Bustamante said.
In response to the incident, Brown stressed how vitally important BSA and other cultural organizations’ presence on campus is for non-white students.
“My team is the reason why I am still at this school,” Brown said. “I have a very strong community, and it is my goal to support other black students who don’t have that community.”
BSA’s presence at CUA provides a community for Black students at a predominantly white institution. In the words of Brown, “Cultural organizations save lives.”
Brown also called on the university, specifically the administration, staff, and faculty, to do their part in shaping the culture and not shy away from holding conversations on these topics.
“There is only so much work BSA can do by themselves,” Brown said. “We need the help of the university as a whole to hold people accountable and to get rid of the dark cloud of hatred that is upon us.”
For more information on BSA, its instagram handle is @cua_bsa and its email is email@example.com.