University student groups join forces to host rally supporting Black lives

Nearly 80 people gathered on the Foote Green Thursday evening during a rally for Black lives hosted by United Black Students and the Black Student Athlete Alliance. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

Nearly 80 people gathered on the Foote Green Thursday evening during a rally for Black lives hosted by United Black Students and the Black Student Athlete Alliance. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

University student groups join forces to host rally supporting Black lives

By Ashley A. Williams
United Black Students and the Black Student Athlete Alliance, in partnership with the University of Miami administration, mobilize to honor the lives lost due to police brutality.

During a rally for Black lives Thursday evening at the University of Miami, Landon Coles, president of the United Black Students (UBS) organization, read the names—one by one—of several victims of police brutality. 

Philando Castille. Tamir Rice. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Oscar Grant. 

“I feel sadness, a sense of gratitude, a sense of reflection but also a sense of hope,” said Coles, who is majoring in political science in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We have lost so many on this journey and we still have so far to go. Tonight was the first step toward continuously creating spaces for Black students.” 

Nearly 80 people—including University students, faculty members, and staff—gathered on the Foote Green to honor those lives with an eight minute and 46 second moment of silence, a symbol of police brutality associated with the killing of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck. 

In partnership with the Black Student Athlete Alliance (BSAA), the event was created to honor the lives lost due to police brutality. Speakers included Ryan Holmes, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students; Renee Dickens Callan, executive director of student life; Renae Miles Payne, senior associate athletic director and administration and chief diversity officer; Miles Pendleton, president of the University’s NAACP chapter; Kai Anderson, president of Brothers Overcoming Negativity and Destruction; and Michelle Atherley, founder of the University’s BSAA. 

In his message to the audience, Holmes made it clear that Black students are valued, and their thoughts and opinions are regarded among campus leaders. He encouraged students to continue using their voice to fortify the partnership and trust between them and the University. 

“We are here for you,” said Holmes. “Continue to let us know where it hurts, prior to an event happening. We need to hear you and you need to hear us. Please understand that you are loved. Black lives matter and more than that, Black lives need be respected and protected. Let’s continue to make a difference as we move forward.” 

Coles felt it was especially important to conclude the fall 2020 semester with this rally for Black lives. After facing a pandemic that has disproportionally affected Black people as well as dealing with social justice issues in their everyday lives, Coles wanted his peers to know that the University makes an effort to protect and support them throughout their academic careers. 

“I absolutely feel supported by this University,” said Coles. “I think that every student tonight is walking away from the event feeling a greater sense of community. That’s why we wanted to put this event on tonight—so students can physically see one another before the break. We are not perfect, and we may drop the ball on occasion, but we are here in numbers and there is a community to represent us and advocate on our behalf.”