Black Student Union social injustice demonstration sparks conversations around racism

Bemidji State University’s Black Student Union held a peaceful demonstration June 6 in recognition of the death of George Floyd and social injustice.

The demonstration, held at Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan Park, included speeches from BSU students, professors and community members, music and nine minutes of silence in Floyd’s memory — representing the time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck.

Zoe Christensen, a junior criminal justice major from Glencoe, Minnesota, and president of BSU’s Black Student Union, helped to coordinate the event

“This demonstration was held to raise awareness for the injustices faced by people in the black community,” she said. “We want to stand in solidarity and speak against the never-ending oppression (that) black people experience.”

Dr. David Frison, assistant professor of business administration at BSU, gave a speech titled “Minnesota Not Nice,” in which he reflected on what it was like for him to move to Minnesota and search for the black communities. The speech included a eulogy to racism.

Dr. John Gonzalez, professor of psychology and a member of the White Earth Anishinaabe Nation also spoke, giving a speech called “Your Silence is a Continuation of Violence.” Gonzalez directed his message to allies of the Black Lives Matter movement, emphasizing the importance of allyship, being anti-racist and supporting equity.

Asin Dexter, a junior majoring in political science and indigenous studies from Onamia, Minnesota, and president of Council of Indian Students, shared her thoughts on racism and police brutality, as well.

Christensen concluded the demonstration with her speech, “A Message to the Silent,” in which she shared personal experiences when those around choose to not speak out against social injustices and racism.

“It’s important, especially in rural areas like Bemidji, to spark conversations about racism and inequality,” Christensen said. “Too often, people turn a blind eye to these injustices. Myself and the Black Student Union are tired of the silence. We want our voices heard, and our voices to matter. We want real change. Black people across the nation want to be and feel truly equal.”

Other speakers at the event included BSU students Jalen Frye, Alexis Bugera-Brown and Colbey Wadsworth, and community members Sherrill Frison and Renne Gurneau.

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Bemidji State University, located amid the lakes and forests of northern Minnesota, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling around 5,000 students, Bemidji State offers 70 undergraduate areas of study and eight graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select pre-professional programs. At Bemidji State University, we educate people to lead inspired lives. BSU’s Shared Fundamental Values include civic engagement and leadership, international and multicultural understanding, belief in the power of liberal arts, and environmental stewardship. BSU is a Minnesota State university. For more, visit bemidjistate.edu or find us at BemidjiState on your favorite social media networks.