In the weeks since the non-indictments of the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, we have seen all kinds of protests against a justice system that is rarely applied equally to all Americans. In Providence alone, there have been die-ins, marches, and a massive petition to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse demanding reform.
Though finals period often takes our attention away from just about everything outside of our looming exams, many members of the Brown community have continued to stand up and demand a more equitable justice system–one in which black lives matter. You can see as much on your news feed every day: our classmates are traveling to New York to join the Millions March, sharing posts about how best to be an ally at a time like this, and expressing their rage and sorrow at the events of the past month. Some have led their own protests, lending a hand in the best way they know how.
One of the more poignant responses to the events in Ferguson and New York has been the “To My Unborn Son” series. The brainchild of the Yale Black Men’s Union, “To My Unborn Son” is designed to show how any black man, even one studying at Yale, could be killed by police. It also allows those photographed to express their dreams for what their unborn children’s futures will look like. Students at Brown have since followed Yale’s lead with a Tumblr, and the results are incredibly powerful. The photos, in which subjects stand with a message addressed to their unborn child, provide a space for us to hear the voices of people—from Providence, New Haven, and beyond—who really, truly could have been Michael Brown or Eric Garner.
The “To My Unborn Son” project, however, is not the only noteworthy solidarity initiative going on at Brown. In an effort to demystify the confusing reports coming out of the Michael Brown grand jury proceedings, a group of Alpert Medical School students has launched the Ferguson Decoded Project. Ferguson Decoded grew out of the complexities of the documents that Saint Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch released in the wake of the grand jury’s deliberations. Many of these documents, including Michael Brown’s autopsy, were full of medical jargon that isn’t easy for the average person to digest.
With this in mind, the team behind Ferguson Decoded “use[d] their recently acquired knowledge in order to make the medical information presented to the Ferguson grand jury more accessible.” Their website contains helpful material such as a “translation” of Brown’s autopsy and former police officer Darren Wilson’s medical records. Their work grew from the idea that transparency is key to securing justice for those who have faced violence at the hands of the police and the criminal justice system.
It isn’t surprising to see Brown students at the leading edge of protests against the injustices that the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have exposed. One can only assume that many more innovative demonstrations of solidarity will come out of College Hill in the weeks and months to come.