Kelly Gallagher ‘22
The weeks following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others were filled with energy as people attended protests, sought education, and engaged in difficult conversations. Many students and organizations at the College of the Holy Cross have taken action to ensure the momentum continues throughout the summer.
Holy Cross students Sienna Ablorh ‘21 and Dorean Asuako ‘21 wasted no time leaping into action. Early in June, Ablorh had the idea to create a list of Black-owned businesses in Worcester, raising awareness of ways consumers could economically support the city’s Black community members, an idea Asuako helped bring to fruition. Their effort to raise awareness of the businesses was a success, and they witnessed a strong positive impact as businesses featured on the list reported an influx of customers. The list, now highlighting over 160 Black-owned businesses, received additional attention when The Telegraph interviewed Ablorh and Asuako for an article.
In a joint statement written for The Spire, Asuako and Ablorh shared their advice for students who want to support Black-owned businesses surrounding Holy Cross’ campus. “Creating this list has sparked an eagerness to return back to the Hill (when it is safe) because our hope specifically for the HC community is that it can help us all engage with the larger community of Worcester in a more meaningful way, other than just going to Blackstone in Millbury and visiting Shrewsbury street. Our hope is that our directory can help especially students see that Worcester truly has much to offer if you delve deeper and it’s more than just restaurants (even though those are pretty great!). Check out the list of (currently) 160 businesses and look up some of them, create a list of places to visit by yourself or with friends once we’re all back in Worcester.”
Ablorh and Asuako also had advice for students currently away from Worcester who are enthusiastic about their list’s goals. “If Worcester isn’t your hometown, you don’t have to wait (and shouldn’t) to support Black owned businesses. As we’re all home, show support for Black owned businesses in your hometown. Find out if there are lists of Black owned businesses in your hometown or surrounding areas. If there aren’t any lists/directories, challenge yourself to do a little ‘research,’ social media is your best friend…. This is a time to think more consciously about how you can support different communities if you’re not already doing so, and if you are, how you can further do so!”
Other students have also found ways to contribute to creating change. The student environmental organization Eco-Action launched 24 Hours of Action for BLM, encouraging students to dedicate Monday, June 15, to taking concrete action for racial justice. In advance, they encouraged other student organizations to also get involved in the project. Eco-Action equiped participants with extensive lists of petitions to sign, important fundraisers, and officials to contact. The latter included a template email to send to the Holy Cross President’s Cabinet, Executive Team, and Class Deans, with ideas for anti-racist efforts the College could take.
Throughout the summer, the Office of Multicultural Education has been providing a wealth of ongoing opportunities to learn about, discuss, and commit to anti-racist work. In June, they launched their HC Uplifts Black Voices initiative, which centers Black voices, businesses, arts, and accomplishments. As they shared on Instagram, “Making donations to organizations that fight police brutality and systemic racism is an incredibly important way to promote peace and progress, but another smaller action that can have real and far-reaching effects into the future is highlighting and uplifting Black folks, and supporting Black-owned businesses.” Other initiatives include Watch Wednesday, the Listen and Learn Book Club, and Facilitation Fridays. OME also offers their podcast, 6 Feet. 20 Seconds, as a healing space for students of color.
The McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture is hosting their lecture series “Conversations with Alumni: Dismantling Structural Racism,” which features alumni who have made great strides in activist efforts. The series kicked off on July 14 with a webinar featuring Malik Neal ‘13, founding member and director of the Philadelphia Bail Fund. Neal discussed his organization, which aims to pay bail for those who can’t afford it themselves, raise awareness about the injustice of bail money, and ultimately to eliminate bail money in the city.
The series aims to help students find ways to channel activism into long-term change. Prof. Thomas Landy, director of the McFarland Center, spoke to The Spire about the importance of generating long-term change. “In my lifetime, I’ve seen moments when public attention was focused on a particular issue but was fleeting. And the work to bring about the change we need requires sustained attention to the whole range of structures — many of them hardly visible to much of the public — that contrive to undermine the well-being of Black and brown people. These are great alums who I knew as students. The world would be a better place if current students aspire to achieve what they have.”
The next McFarland Center webinar, occurring on July 21, will highlight the work of Rashaunda M. Tyson ‘04, Assistant Principal at the University High School of Science and Engineering in Hartford. This talk, along with the other two webinars, will be available online after the conclusion of the series.