EXCLUSIVE: Black Drake University students spark #PaintItBlack movement after repeated racial attacks on campus

Protesters rally at Teachers College at Columbia University (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Black students at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa are fighting back after several people have spoken out about various racial attacks inspiring them to start the #ThisIsDrake and #MyTimeAtDrake movements.

Last week, students were both outraged and scared after a racist note was slid under the door of a Black student that read, “Dear Porch Monkey, we no longer want a darkie on our campus which means you need to leave or else.”

Monday, the Des Moines Register also reported that Drake students were receiving racist robocalls from The Road to Power, a white supremacist group that made similar threats after the murder of former University of Iowa student, Mollie Tibbets.

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With this uptick of racially motivated incidents on campus, university president Earl Martin sent an email to students assuring them that the, “offensive, disturbing, and hateful recorded messages,” would not be tolerated. Students have, however, taken the matter into their own hands and started #ThisIsDrake, a hashtag meant to allow minorities a rare opportunity to speak up about the normalized terror they live with at the predominantly white school.

Tuesday, theGrio spoke to Morgan Coleman, a freshman at Drake, who has become involved in the pushback efforts against racism.

“I come from an inner city community where there is a lot of diversity, so Iowa was a huge culture shock for me,” she admits. “Although Drake is now the most diverse it’s been in years, it still isn’t that diverse. And, I think a lot of Black students at this campus – and students of color in general – are scared because of all the micro-aggressions. There are a lot of people here who have never experienced Black culture or just being around Black people at all.”

The International Relations major also goes on to explain how Black students and white students at the school often don’t socialize with each other because they’re afraid of how their classmates will respond.

“Given these last few incidents, there’s an overall concern for our safety on this campus,” she continues. “And although there has been heightened security and police presence, it doesn’t take away from the fact that we don’t feel safe.”

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Rather than continue to be crippled by fear, the 18-year-old says she and her fellow Black classmates are finding their voices again thanks to the #ThisIsDrake and #MyTimeAtDrake hashtags.

“Since I’ve been here, students of color have been threatened at least once a year. Every. Single. Year.” tweeted one student.

“Don’t forget the Nazis symbols, the N-word on a student’s door, and the shouting of brown students to ‘go back to where they came from,'” shared another.

Even the students who feel mildly accepted have come forward with anecdotes about what it’s like being treated as a token, with them confessing, “White students in my dorm shared their favorite ‘Black jokes’ with me, because they thought I was ‘one of the nice ones.'”

Fortunately, these efforts have received a lot of support from an administration that says it’s committed to addressing the rifts and segregation that are currently taking place.

“Administration has given us a great space to let out our frustrations and have been open to hearing our ideas,” says Coleman. And one of those ideas is a project called #PaintItBlack.

Every year, during the Drake Relays everyone in the community comes together for a street painting event called “Painted Street,” which is described as a time when, “main pedestrian paths on campus becomes a concrete canvas for student organizations to show their school spirit, with each group painting a design that reflects an annual theme.”

This year, instead of using bright colors, Coleman says,”we asked organizations to paint their squares black,” as a visually stunning show of solidarity.

“We’re hoping to create a renewed sense of community between students of color and their white allies on this campus,” she explains. “The whole goal is to re-affirm our identity and our presence, because we DO belong here. We need to create conversations about the racial intolerance on campus and not only break our silence, but also let racists know that we aren’t going anywhere.”

She also says that since #PaintItBlack was conceptualized there has been an overwhelming show of support from students, faculty, and even a few of the predominantly white fraternities and sororities have pledged to stand with them. Some have even posted black paper all over their dorms and walls, and painted sections of their school black to show their allegiance.

“Being an ally isn’t just showing support, it also involves taking action,” the freshman warns. “It’s not enough to not be racist, you also have to do your part and speak up when racism occurs around you.”

And to the students who have been sending the ugly notes, her message is simple.

“Racial intolerance is no longer welcome on this campus.”

 

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