June 6, 2020

GUEST ROOM | Using Our Dollars for Change: Cornell Students for Black Lives

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In 2012, Trayvon Martin, wearing a grey hoodie, went to the store and purchased an Arizona Watermelon Fruit Juice Cocktail and Skittles. On his way home he was killed by George Zimmerman, who would later be acquitted of all charges. When Martin was killed, I was 12 years old in the sixth grade. To honor his memory, my classmates and I wore hoodies and bought Arizona’s & Skittles from the corner store across the street before school started. Later that day we sat in our middle school lunchroom and discussed the case. We were young and confused, not yet aware of a system that allows Black boys to be killed and then frees their murders. We did not know it yet, but this would be the first of many senseless Black deaths we would live through.

Today, I am 20 years old and I have lived through countless acts of violence, of racism, of white supremacy and police brutality that have taken the lives of people whose names I learn from social media hashtags and news headlines. I have gone to so many protests, said so many names that I have lost count. After each protest, I pray for justice for the life taken from us; justice in most of these cases never come. After a few weeks, things blow over; until the next death occurs, the next video goes viral.

Living in a world where it always seems as if it’s just a matter of time until the next death makes me wonder if I am the next death. I wonder if one day, my name will appear after #SayHerName. I wonder if one day the names of my loved ones will be sprawled across protest signs, screaming for justice that is almost always denied.

Fighting for justice within a nation that has continued to fail us is exhausting. These past few weeks have intensified these feelings of exhaustion and fury for Black Americans throughout the nation. First, we watched our Black brothers and sisters be disproportionately killed by COVID-19 because of systematic issues including poverty, lack of access to health care, and the biases of the medical community. Now, we have witnessed the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonnna Taylor, George Floyd, Nina Pop and Tony McDade. Black people are tired and drained by this fight. Yet, we continue to fight for justice that is long overdue.

It is time we end this fight; more importantly, it is time we win it. There is no other option, law enforcement officers must be shown that they cannot continue to murder us and get away with it. White Americans who utilize blackness as a reason to kill us must be shown that they cannot murder us and get away with it. Black Lives Matter.

It is for this reason that we, as Cornellians, must support the Black protestors and nonblack allies who are organizing and putting their lives on the line throughout the nation. We must support the organizations that are doing the arduous work of policy advocacy, who are thinking of ways to direct America towards an equitable and inclusive future.

One of the best ways to support protestors, organizations and Black people in winning this fight is by donating our money to community-based organizations engaged in achieving justice for Black Americans, both in life and in death.

It is, for this reason, we are launching the Cornell Students for Black Lives Fundraiser, inspired by the Rice for Black Lives Fundraiser that raised $93,000. The Cornell Students for Black Lives Fundraiser is an initiative started by a coalition of over affinity, cultural, Greek, and professional student organizations that are dedicated to ending systemic oppression and racial injustice. We presently have 143 members; for a full list of involved student organizations, please visit our Facebook, Instagram or GoFundMe Page. The coalition is run by a committee of Black students, many of whom are members of Black student organizations on campus. This committee has chosen the means by which we both fundraise and advocate in addition to which organizations the funds raised by this initiative will go.

As members of this coalition, we have unique platforms and thus seek to use our networks and privilege, which Cornell grants us, to use our dollars to make a change. All funds raised by this initiative will be evenly divided will be given to the following organizations: Black Lives Matter of Great New York, Communities United for Police Reform, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Southside Community Center, and Tompkins County Showing Up for Racial Justice. Each of these organizations was chosen because they support one or more of our organizational platforms: supporting protestors, eradicating racist policing, and uplifting black communities.  For more information on these organizations, I encourage you all to check their websites or to view our GoFundMe and Instagram page for more information.

In addition to fundraising efforts, Cornell Students for Black Lives intends to engage in advocacy and educational efforts for the larger Cornell community. Donation without the understanding of what we are fighting does not help us get closer to a society that actively values black lives. Black Lives Matter everywhere, and we call upon the Cornell community by devoting their time, financial resources and energy to both this campaign and cultivating long-lasting change on our campus.


 A previous version of this column misnamed an Arizona branded drink purchased by Trayvon Martin.

 Sherell Farmer is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Comments may be sent to [email protected]. Guest Room runs periodically this summer.