By Cherelle Muhammad
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Howard University)—When you love something you are willing to fight for it, fight to make it better. That’s how the students at Howard University feel about the Blackburn Takeover. We love this University! Many of us dreamed our whole lives about coming here. Some of us worked night and day to get excellent grades just to get accepted into Howard University. It was our dream school. But that dream has become a nightmare for too many. Horrendous housing conditions, faculty and staff that don’t respond to emails, a Board of Trustees that eliminated student, faculty and alumni positions without their consultation and on top of all of that a ransomware attack that had us without internet for almost two weeks. We just said “enough is enough.” Student suffering must come to an end. On the night of Oct. 12, we took over the Blackburn Student Center. We will stay until our demands are met.
We have four basic demands: An in-person town hall with students and President Wayne Fredrick scheduled before the end of October. Our second demand is to reinstate all affiliate positions (students, faculty, and alumni) on the Board of Trustees. Demand three is for the President and Chairman of the Board to propose a meeting with student leadership outlining their “Housing Plan” to protect the incoming classes of Howard’s immediate future. We also want immunity from academic and legal reprisals when this is over.
Students are sleeping outside the Blackburn Center in tents and sleeping inside in sleeping bags and on air mattresses. We take this action very seriously. We are risking our academic futures as well as legal action from the University. We’ve already been threatened with expulsion for violating the university’s “Code of Conduct” but still we stay. Having our friends live with mold, mildew and poor housing is a worse crime. We are fighting for what we love. We know Howard can do better and we believe in the power of activism to encourage them to do so.
We are not afraid of the consequences of our actions. We believe that we are fighting for what we love and doing a greater good. We have not vandalized the building as was previously reported. We are cleaning the building, taking out the trash and making sure it and every student here is secure. We don’t want empty promises or words filled with bluster from the administration. We want the Howard promise of TRUTH and SERVICE. We want a university that serves us.
We appreciate everyone who stands in solidarity with us from the Faculty Senate to university student organizations to the other HBCUs who are getting the courage to do the same thing to the groups sending us food, water and supplies to the families praying for us. Howard students have a history of resistance. We follow in that legacy. #BlackburnTakeover believes every student has the right to hold their administration accountable.
Cherelle Muhammad is a student at Howard University and president of Juvenile Justice Advocates