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Unity Rally brings community together in support of Black lives

Thu Oct 1, 2020

Muhammad Mahmood speaks at the Unity RallyMembers of the campus community gathered – six feet apart and wearing face coverings – for a Unity Rally in support of Black Lives Matter on Sept. 22. The program featured voices from the student body and administration, and included a shared commitment to fostering a safe and equitable university.

The event was organized by Muhammad “Moose” Mahmood, a junior and member of the Falcons football team. He recounted experiences he had with police officers and wondered if their outcome would have been worse if he was Black.

“Our Black community is in danger,” he said. “This isn’t breaking news, but it should be breaking hearts.”

“We want to be heard,” said senior Kyle Colon, who served as master of ceremonies for the event. “We are tired of not being heard. Every day is another life than can be saved. We only move forward if we come together."

Crystal Aneke, former student representative to the Board of Trustees, urged the audience to understand that systemic racism is real. “The color of one’s skin does not devalue their worth as a human being,” Aneke said.

Dimitri Moore, a member of the Student Government Association, said he was aware of racism every day. “I wake up every day with the fear that I could be killed for the color of my skin,” he said. “I ask of you to listen. We all have our stories. Understand us as best you can.”

University administrators joined the call for action.

“All lives cannot matter unless Black Lives Matter,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Laura Bayless. “All lives cannot matter until trans lives matter. All lives cannot matter until LGBTQ lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Latinx lives matter. All lives cannot matter until people with disabilities’ lives matter.”

“Fitchburg State is committed to educational justice,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Alberto Cardelle, explaining the university’s pledge to help all students succeed. “It takes all of us to get this done.”

University Police Chief Michael J. Cloutier said the U.S. was founded on the principle that all men were created equal, yet there has been a devaluation of Black lives in our country. He also said it did not devalue others’ lives to pronounce that Black Lives Matter, including police officers.

“As the university’s Chief of Police, I pledge my support to our black community, and also to those who took an oath to protect our way of life,” Cloutier said. “Our continuously intersecting lives will remain contentious, if we do not stop and take time to talk to one another. We must support each other if we are to dismantle racism.  Because true change can only be achieved through collaboration.” 

The program ended with students and staff signing a pledge of inclusion.

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