Towson Freedom School holds first meeting

By: Sarah Rowan, News Editor

Towson Freedom School members met to discuss the differences between organizing and activism at their first meeting Sept. 22 in the Lecture Hall.

Coordinator of Baltimore Bloc Ralikh Hayes led the conversation, and encouraged attendees to create their own definitions for the terms. According to Hayes, who considers himself an organizer, there is a definite line between the two.

“Organizing is about the collective ‘we,’” Hayes said. “Activism is about the call to self, and how you can just show up for a quick second, but not actually put in long-term to build power or to change people’s conditions. It’s kind of like whining about something, but not wanting to actually get up to fix it.”

Freedom School Director John Gillespie began the program by chanting lines from a 1973 speech by Black Panther activist Assata Shakur, entitled “To My People.”

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom,” the attendees chanted. “It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

During the meeting, attendees sat in a circle on the floor of the Lecture Hall and discussed recent violence against black people in the United States. Citing the recent protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, attendees agreed that power determines what can be deemed as violent within law enforcement.

North Carolina has been in a state of emergency since protests broke out following the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by police Sept. 20.

During the meeting, Freedom School members also discussed the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, among others, to emphasize that black people are often unfairly criminalized by police and other members of the community.

“When black people have guns, they’re automatically in a position of, ‘You can be shot, and it can be justified,’” Gillespie said.

The Freedom School is sponsored by the Black Student Union and the Organized Network of Student Resistance. Its purpose is to provide a safe space for black studies, in the absence of a black studies major on campus. The ultimate goal of the program is to eventually implement a black studies major at Towson in the coming years, on top of the 21-credit minor that exists now.

Gillespie said that he was happy with the turnout for the first night and that overall the program went well.

“I wanted it to be small enough for everyone to actually get to know everyone, but I wanted it to be big enough so that they can feel like they’re participating in something larger than [themselves],” Gillespie said. “I think that we got the perfect size.”

On Thursday, Oct. 6, the Freedom School will meet again in the Lecture Hall at 6:30 p.m. The first hour will be devoted to discussing suggested reading and the last hour will be devoted to socializing as a group.

Next week’s suggested readings are “Black Study, Black Struggle” by Robin Kelly, and “The Only Possible Relationship to the University Today is a Criminal One” by Fred Moten and Stefano Harley.

Gillespie encourages all interested community members to attend the Freedom School meetings.

“Everyone should come,” Gillespie said. “It’s ‘Black Study, Black Struggle,’ but black study has always been revolutionary in its ability to rally everyone toward justice.”



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