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Student activism — and student power — has been the key words on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia for the past few weeks. Student action and protest surrounding a series of racially charged incidents led to the resignation of both the University of Missouri System President and the University of Missouri-Columbia Chancellor.
Protestors in the "Concerned Student 1950" movement have aimed to create a safe space for those involved well away from the media that has descended on the campus in recent days, but we were lucky enough to speak to University of Missouri junior and activist, Naomi Collier, during our November 9, 2015 broadcast covering the ongoing protests in Missouri.
"People fail to realize that you have to be empathetic," Collier told us. "We have been out for months now trying to get the attention of the university, trying to educate individuals on the different issues that we have on campus. And no one has been listening. And, you know, like a small child, when you don't feel like your parents are listening to you, you act out. And we had to essentially do what we thought would get attention, would stir up the University of Missouri, would get the faculty and the university administration and obviously the nation to look at us, so they would see that this is not a small problem."
Have you felt a palpable atmosphere of racism at the campus?
Definitely...I was one of those students out there practicing the play and I saw what it was like for a white individual to feel audacious enough to approach us minding our own business and call us out of our names. I know what it's like to see the safety officer on duty not reacting the way that we felt that she should have.
And other people that I'm very close to have gone through very similar situations where they're being called out of their names, just people being insensitive to issues that are directly affecting us as people. A lot of people do an say things just out of ignorance and just not knowing. And I attribute that to just a lack of empathy and a lack of willing to be educated and understand the struggles that other groups go through on a daily basis.
Were students on the campus involved in Ferguson? Is that Black Lives Matter movement part of what we're seeing played out in Columbia?
Most definitely. I'm from the St. Louis, Missouri, actually. (...) At least for me, personally, and I know a lot of students from the St. Louis area was very, very impactful for them because Mike Brown wasn't the first Mike Brown, in my opinion. You know, there have been plenty of situations prior to Mike Brown in the St. Louis area in the St. Louis County area that just did not blow up and get the same amount of press as Mike Brown did. So, for that to get national coverage the way that it did, I do believe that was part of the catalyst that led into what we're experiencing now. That was really the first time that I had ever seen non-traditional organizations on campus kind of formulate to be able to protest or demonstrate for those different causes, especially Mike Brown.
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