A new mural celebrating the Black Lives Matter movement was unveiled in Angell College center Nov. 1, the same day as Black Solidarity Day.
The mural is about a year in the making, started by artist and former Student Association Coordinator of the Arts Rickell Larose.
The mural hangs above the steps in the lobby of the ACC, calling the attention of anyone descending the stairs.
The current coordinator of the arts, Pilar Balader-Herrero, along with the SA and Black Onyx, hosted the inaugural event.
At the inauguration, students and community members of all ages sat on those same steps. Attention was drawn from the art above them to the speakers taking the podium before them.
The unveiling event began below the mural at 7 p.m. with SUNY Plattsburgh President Alexander Enyedi saying a few words.
“This mural is a permanent reminder of a shared commitment to the students and community. We need to recognize Black voices and take the opportunity to connect, reflect and improve our conversations. It might make some unnecessarily uncomfortable,” Enyedi said. “But let’s take actions moving forward to disturb the comfortable.”
Angelina Rodriquez, president of Black Onyx, quickly gave a synopsis of Black Solidarity Day when she took the podium. Created in 1969 by activist, playwright and historian Carlos E. Russell, it exercises a day-long moratorium from shopping or participating in the economic and social foundations of a country that has a history of oppression.
“Students and staff have come together as a community,” Rodriguez said. “We are actively engaging in a conversation about oppression, and we must continue until the oppression ends.”
Closing out the inauguration was Ohemaa Owusu-Poku, SA coordinator for student affairs and diversity.
She began by listing off the names of those “who have died and suffered for the cause.” That they do not die in vain if there is a chance to learn from oppressive events and come together as a community. Most importantly, she said, is to take the time to understand the people around us.
Owusu-Poku, like many other speakers at the inauguration, was afflicted with emotions when she spoke. Often pausing, she spoke with an urgency and necessity.
“It’s hard to talk about things like this,” Owusu-Poku said. “Police brutality, oppression, discrimination. It’s happening to people my age, my brother’s age, and what if it was him? What if it’s me next, or my friend or cousin or nephew? There is a critical fear that can never be matched, and that you cannot understand unless you have experienced it.”
Owusu-Poku also reflected on what the mural meant to her personally.
“It gives me a sense of belonging — that I am not excluded, that nobody is excluded,” Owusu-Poku said.
However, she believed that further actions could have been taken to support the campus’s Black community, and ensure faith between the students and administration. She emphasized that the conversation does not stop and the Black Lives Matter mural is a small building block within the greater issues.
A two-minute video, recorded and posted to Instagram Oct. 22, showed the officers physically struggling to detain a Black SUNY Plattsburgh student. University Police’s incident report stated she was arrested for sub-standard lights, driving with a suspended registration and false inspection certificate.
The incident led to disappointment and criticism of UP and the SUNY Plattsburgh administration. Multiple speak ups, sit ins and meetings between staff and student run organizations have been taking place since then.
Balader-Herrero said art has often been a cornerstone to starting a conversation. It allows a foundation to build itself around the physical piece and bring political or social topics to wider audiences.
“We wanted to do something Black Solidarity Day, and it ended up being ideal timing to inaugurate the mural,” Balader-Herrero said. “Art is for everyone, and while this is to specifically acknowledge the Black community on campus, every person can take away a meaning or a feeling from it.”