East Bay answers call to action

Photo by The All-Nite Images/Flickr

Denika Williams,
Contributor

A seemingly endless stream of videos depicting police officers mistreating unarmed African Americans prompted former “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Isaiah Washington to ask African Americans nation-wide to boycott work and school.  

“Imagine if every single African American in the United States that was really fed up with being angry, sad and disgusted, would pick one day to simply ‘stay at home’ from every single job, work site, sports arena and government office in the United States of America,” Washington wrote in a Sept. 20 Facebook post. “I’m very sure that within 72 hours from Wall Street to the NFL…black Lives Would Matter. September 26, 2016 is the day.”

The goal of the boycott was to protest a system that African Americans feel is unjust by showing people and employers that they matter and want to be treated with more respect. According to Washington, black people in America would be safer boycotting systematic oppression in their homes rather than protesting out in the streets.

“Protesting is only getting people killed,” Washington said during a Sept. 29 interview. “You’re going to protest for your rights, and then you’re going to get arrested, and then you’re going to put money in the very system that is protecting your rights?”

Washington teamed up with a black mother named Madelon “Blue” McCullough, who originally started #Missing24, a grassroots social justice campaign based in Atlanta, and dreamed up the stay-at-home boycott. “No one gets killed, no one gets injured, no one gets incarcerated,” McCullough said during the Grio.com interview.

African American students at CSUEB planned their own Black Out day on campus. On Sept. 22, the university walkway in front of the campus student union was occupied with black sororities and fraternities — of which I am an active member — supporting Black Lives Matter. Students wore black shirts and held signs that read “Black Lives Matter.” 

“I believe the purpose was to provide awareness on a campus so focused on multiculturalism that individual struggles of specific groups sometimes gets lost,” said Monika Brooks, engagement coordinator and advisor for the campus and National PanHellenic Council, which encourages black leadership on campus. “I will always participate in efforts to fight supremacy and injustice. It is important to voice your opinion, frustration and anger to enact change.”

While admitting that she did know of the boycott, she chose not to participate because as a faculty member, she felt as though it was more important for her to be on campus. “I would rather do teach-ins or something of that provides educational context and expands the conversation among blacks and other people of color,” Brooks said. “I don’t agree that marches/protests are what get us killed. I believe that the oppressive system gets us killed.”

Melvin Faulks, a current student and director of programs for the Black Student Union stated, “I fully stand in support of Washington’s boycott because it is one of many ways to bring awareness to police brutality and the loss of black and brown lives at the hands of law enforcement, but also to force the institutions that the black community have been supporting for years to support our cause.”

The BSU aims to represent a space for black students to come together for a common purpose and strategize ways to improve the livelihood of black students and strength of the black voice on campus.

The actual number of the people who participated in the stay home boycott is difficult to quantify, but there is a survey available on Twitter that aims to tally a total. Hashtags #StayAtHomeSeptember262016 and #Missing24 were used to allow people to post their opinions about the situation.

Regardless of how many people joined the movement on Sept. 26, Washington said he was satisfied with the results of the campaign and is planning another boycott. He and the #Missing24 team have future boycotts scheduled for Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.