Hundreds of people convened on the University of Oregon campus Friday, July 8, to remember the black lives lost to police shootings in the past few days, including Alton Sterling of Louisiana and Philando Castile of Minnesota.
Addressing a crowd gathered in the Erb Memorial Union amphitheater as rain gently fell on attendees, youth pastor Kim McGrew gave a moving speech that focused on action and implementing change in the face of great negativity.
“I need you to remain positive,” McGrew said. “There’s already enough negativity that’s going throughout the nation, and they don’t need to see it on the UO campus.”
McGrew spoke to a solemn, introspective audience as she urged people to act as agents of change. “One thing I want you to be reminded of is that we’re a melting pot,” McGrew said as she gestured around the amphitheater and encouraged people to look at their neighbors. “Every nationality is right here on the UO campus. You can see the world sitting right here, saying, ‘We stand for one. And we stand for all.’”
McGrew shared that she is from Dallas, Texas, and that she knew many of the officers shot the evening of July 7 at a rally in protest of police violence against black people, calling the deaths by sniper “another tragedy.”
In a call to action, McGrew asked people to no longer stay silent or hold their opinions to themselves. “Today, I set a new standard,” she said. “Defy the odds and step up.”
She called on the audience to act as leaders in the community to be a voice of reason, “regardless of the obstacles that may be against you. I need you to view this challenge as an opportunity.”
She condemned further violence and said that this is an opportunity to stand together instead of stand divided.
“Black lives matter,” McGrew said. “White lives matter. Brown lives matter. Everybody’s lives matter today because after last night, everyone can become a statistic. Everyone can be a victim of a senseless act.”
As she finished her speech, she prayed for the group present, for the community and for the nation as a whole, and silence descended on the amphitheater as the people present honored the lives lost to violence.
After that, student activist Nicole Dodier spoke to the crowd, saying, “The longer we continue to be silent about these issues, the more black bodies will be laid to rest. We march here today to be visible, to show the world that we are fed up.”
She said action must be taken to resolve police violence against the black community.
“As I scroll down social media, I see a lot of backlash about our movement, folks saying that all lives matter. However, what many people fail to realize is that all lives cannot matter until the black community matters,” Dodier said. “And we cannot fight these battles alone. We need our allies to speak up and get behind us in leading the change. I find these truths to be self evident that black lives matter.”
At this point, the crowd marched down 13th Avenue through campus, crying out, “Black lives matter!” and “united we stand, divided we fall” while carrying signs.
Members of the crowd held pictures of black citizens slain by police officers and placed them on Hamilton Hall lawn to memorialize them.
At the intersection of Agate and 13th, Black Student Union member Jessica Brown led more rallying cries, and then organizers passed the megaphone to audience members, who shared their thoughts with the crowd.
Kayla Godowa-Tufti, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, spoke in solidarity with the black community.
“I feel the grief because they killed us, too,” she said. “They wanted us dead, too. If all of us stand together, there is no way this empire can ever survive. We need to stop the killing. Everyone needs to stop killing each other.”