Coalition of Ithaca and campus activists plan #BlackLivesMatter march and teach-in

October 23, 2015 by Mark H. Anbinder

A group that came together in the wake of the shocking shooting at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has organized a series of events this Saturday. "Black Lives Matter: a community conversation on surviving and thriving" will begin with a solidarity march starting from the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Commons.

Image courtesy of Black Students United at Cornell University.Image courtesy of Black Students United at Cornell University.One of the local organizers, Leon Lawrence, a retired Cornell administrator, credits assistant professor Russell Rickford of Cornell's history department for the effort "resulting in a coalition of Ithaca activists, residents, educators, and students coming together after the Charleston, SC massacre in June."

"We want to generate some excitement and harness some of the energy of this movement and channel it locally," Dr. Rickford said in a statement. "Many of us hope it can be a way to at least start or restart a conversation about building a national anti-racist movement in Ithaca and beyond."

Participants will gather at the recently completed new Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Ithaca Commons, between 1 and 1:15pm on Saturday, October 24. Named for the legendary Ithaca musician and radio host, a classic soul performer who died in 2002, the pavilion has for years been a key venue for the Ithaca Festival, and has served as a focal point for rallies and other gatherings. Now in a new location near the intersection of North Tioga Street and Seneca Street, the pavilion hosted the last few concerts of this year's Downtown Ithaca Summer Concert Series, beginning with the Gunpoets show in August.

Beverly J. Martin Elementary School in Ithaca.Beverly J. Martin Elementary School in Ithaca.From the Bernie Milton Pavilion, participants will march north and west to the Beverly J. Martin Elementary School, which will host a panel discussion and breakout sessions, "designed to raise awareness about local racial inequality and help stimulate anti-racist activism," according to organizers. 

From 2 to 3:30pm, the panel discussion in the BJM library (on the 2nd floor of the building, which is at 302 West Buffalo Street) will include Cornell grad student Mayowa Willoughby; Ithaca College student Rita Bunatal and professors Sean Bradwell and Nia Nunn Makepeace; Ithaca High School student Naysa Milton; and Rose Fleurant from Tompkins Cortland Community College.

From 3:30 to 4:10pm, participants will be able to take part in breakout sessions facilitated by Cortland resident Tommy Miller, Ithaca residents Rafa Aponte and Davi Mozie, and Cornell Ph.D. student Bobby Smith II. Following the breakout sessions, the groups will re-convene in the BJM library for a call to action and conclusion of the day's schedule.

"All people of conscience are invited to participate," according to a statement from Black Students United at Cornell University, one of the groups that got involved, along with the Social Justice Council at First Unitarian Society of Ithaca and the Ithaca branch of the national network Showing Up for Racial Justice.

"By its mere existence, the Black Lives Matter movement represents a call for rethinking and reforming the societal role of law enforcement," according to Gerard Aching, director of Cornell's Africana Studies and Research Center.

Mr. Lawrence says the planning group that put together this weekend's events consists of "Ithaca residents and faculty, staff, and students from Cornell, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College."

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