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Student-Led Town Hall Sheds Light On Week 3 Progress of #BlackburnTakeover

Student leaders of the #BlackburnTakeover protest hosted a town hall on Sunday night that brought together up to 614 students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters, such as Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Channing Hill and Erica England headed inside of the Armour J. Blackburn Center with Rev. Jesse Jackson on Sunday, Oct. 31, after Sunday’s Chapel service. Photo courtesy of Jon Musselwhite.

Student leaders of the #BlackburnTakeover protest hosted a town hall on Sunday night that brought together up to 614 students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters, such as Rev. Jesse Jackson. 

All came together to voice their concerns for the University’s inability to acknowledge the issues that are being brought to light and the demands made by the protesters. Leaders Erica England and Channing Hill began the town hall by disclosing the experiences they’ve had with housing insecurity, sickness and financial aid, and they confirmed that the reason they’re going to these extents are for the love of Howard and wanting to hold the University accountable.

“We want to see Howard grow and flourish, but take care of every student that walks across the Yard,” England said. “We are working for the betterment of Howard University even if the administration doesn’t want to admit it.”

England said that the two sessions the #BlackburnTakeover team had with the University’s legal counsel was unfruitful and did not include President Wayne A.I. Frederick’s presence. Confirming England’s statement was the #BlackburnTakeover team’s pro-Bono legal counsel and Howard University alumnus, Attorney Donald Temple.

“We were told by the University counsel that the President was not going to negotiate with them,” Temple explained. 

Amplifying England’s sentiments, Temple expressed that the protesters’ intentions are pure and, as the saying goes, their “demands are not demanding.”

“I urged with every ounce of my body that the administration negotiate with these students… every piece of press that comes out about this is hurting the University, and we don’t want to hurt the University,” Temple said.

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The University has yet to budge, saying that they are not willing to negotiate with the protesters nor grant them any form of amnesty, according to Attorney Temple.

Along with student leaders and their legal counsel, faculty representatives, alumni and alumni groups were present and spoke on the matters at hand.

“The students have not exaggerated the experiences of students and faculty,” Professor Marcus Alfred, an associate professor of physics and astronomy and faculty senate chair, said.

Professor Alfred also hinted at faculty bringing in millions of dollars of grants to the University for students, yet the University paid students late on the grants that many of them heavily relied on. Alumnus, former graduate research assistant and current adjunct lecturer Anthony Jackson and others commented that they were paid 2-4 months late. 

Alumni organizations that attended and spoke at this town hall were Howard Alumni United and The Capstone Group, a stakeholders’ collective that was founded in response to the 2018 administration building takeover, according to member and alumna Maria P. Jones.

Jones urged alumni to get involved as best they can by assisting students with financial scholarships, housing and collective organizing. There were brief talks of an alumni gathering on campus in solidarity with student protesters. 

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Some, including Rev. Jackson, mentioned expanding the matter to a national level by getting Congress. Alumni K. Yvonne Lucas even suggested organizing a march from Howard to the Hill.

Though protesters have struggled to gain their in-person meeting with President Wayne A.I. Frederick, Rev. Jackson has been able to attend meetings with him to advocate on behalf of the student protesters. At his last meeting with the President, the activist was injured and rushed to the hospital.

“While meeting with various administrators, including Dr. Wayne Frederick, Rev. Jackson sustained an injury upon entering the Blackburn Center,” the University tweeted. “We can confirm that Rev. Jackson was taken to the hospital by a university administrator and was later joined by Dr. Wayne Frederick,” they said in a follow up tweet.

The #BlackburnTakeover team has received media coverage from various outlets and many members of the Howard community have banded together to provide them with necessary resources. The community’s support has kept them going, and, according to leaders, they will not be moved until their demands are met.

“We will not bend, we will not fold until we get what we deserve,” Aniyah Vines, a Howard University senior and leader in this movement, said.

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