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‘Where is our President?’: Howard University Students Takeover Blackburn in Protest

Periodically the silence of volcanoes erupts spewing hot molten lava. The traditions of Howard’s past have erupted and are upon the University again. Students are actively protesting in hopes of resolving issues with the administration at Howard.

Students create signs inside Blackburn Student Center lobby.

Howard University students, angered by conditions on campus and communication efforts from the administration, took over the Armour J. Blackburn University Center late Tuesday night following a town hall hosted by the Howard University Student Association.

The student protesters said they were appalled with administration and what they said was a lack of communication. Over the course of the past two months, students have faced significant obstacles. During the first week of September, the University shut off WiFi campus wide due to a cyber attack. During the course of the school year residents in College Hall North were left without running water and air conditioning for more than 48 hours. Across the campus, students found traces of mildew inside their dorms and showers. 

Students, alumni and Shaw-Howard residents stood in solidarity while raising concerns at the town hall hosted by the Howard University Student Association (HUSA) last night. 

“The HUSA Town Hall hosted today was intended to connect students to resources and be a meeting point for peers with questions, grievances, and concerns regarding their Howard experience. Administrators were invited to attend but unfortunately did not,” Burke stated. 

According to HUSA every member of President Frederick’s cabinet was extended an invitation. President Frederick cited a scheduling conflict as the reason for his absence while the other invitees shared no response at all. 

This ignited tension among students and propelled them to take matters into their own hands. Shortly after the town hall concluded a group of protesters staged the “Blackburn Takeover.” 

Protesters prepare air mattresses to sleep on for the night.

In minutes the newly reopened lobby transformed into a sleeping space with air mattresses and sleeping bags for protesters who prepared to stay the night. Signs were posted around the entrance to list the demands of students. 

Demands posted on the walls around Blackburn.

Aniyah Vines, a senior political science/criminology major who founded The Live Movement provided numerous instructions for protesters to follow throughout the night. At one point, fire alarms sounded and those present were told that the fire department would enter the building soon. 

To prevent disbandment, the group linked arms while chanting their demands. Soon after the alarm silenced students settled awaiting the next call for negotiation with administration.  

With an earth trembling tone in her voice, Vines shouted “We are not leaving until not only the administrators come to talk to us, but President Frederick Wayne himself comes.”

At the University, student-led sit-ins represent a unique part of the history that distinguishes its student body from other American universities. In 1968 students took over the Administration building to call for change. Students modeled a protest similar to this in 2018 when they occupied the building for nine days demanding an allocation of resources to combat food insecurity and the disarmament of Campus Police. 

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