• Fri. Dec 3rd, 2021

“I want to stay just because I want to see this protest through:” Howard Demonstrations Continue

Howard University

There are many different reasons why students will choose to attend a historically Black college and university. One reason could be tradition, family legacy, or academics. For Chandler Robinson, it was for networking.

“I decided to come to Howard just because they’re known for their connections,” the 18-year-old psychology freshman major told RoyalTee Magazine in an interview. She also added that HU gave her the most money in scholarships.

But connecting with her fellow student colleagues over a campus-wide protest is probably one of the last things the Dover, Delaware native thought of when meeting new people.

At most HBCUs, homecoming week is usually the cream of the crop and highlight each year. Both students and alumni spend months planning for the epic weekend.

Mold, rats, and mildew at Howard 

But at Howard University, homecoming is the last thing on Robinson’s or any Howard student’s mind. For the past two weeks, students have been demonstrating against poor housing and lack of student representation on the university’s board of trustees.  And the housing situation is not your typical broken air conditioners and jammed closet doors.

“We have mold in our dorms,” Robinson explained. “We also have rat issues in not only our dorms but in our dining hall.”

Robinson arrived on campus on Aug. 15. She told RoyalTee the air filters in their rooms were also not changed before they got to campus. As a result, the condition has affected her health and sent one of her neighbors to the hospital.

“So, the dust has come in compact in our events on top of our air filters has made me personally sick just because again I have severe allergies,” Robinson explained. “I’ve been trying to take like vitamin C and elderberry and all that type of stuff just to combat it.  But my neighbor next door to me actually had to go to the hospital for mold exposure. She had the whole nine coughing up blood and things of that nature.”

Other housing issues Robinson said she and other students have dealt with have been a lack of Wi-Fi. Robinson said between Aug. 24 and Oct. 5, she had no Wi-Fi and was five weeks behind on her classes as a result. HU is currently only doing virtual classes due to COVID-19 precautions.

“Thankfully, my professors have been understanding because they’re kind of in the same boat as us,” she said.

#Blackburntakeover

The demonstrations are being led by the HBCU coalition group, The Live Moment. The organization has a list of immediate demands which includes a town hall meeting with the university president, Dr. Wayne Fredrick; reinstating affiliate board positions, and a detailed housing plan to fix the current issues and protect future students.

Robinson joins hundreds of students who have been documenting their experiences on social media using the hashtag #BlackBurnTakeover, named after the campus’ student center, where Bisons have been set up shop and protested since Oct. 12.

Robinson’s videos of the protests and housing dilemma have gone viral on Tiktok.

“There have been so many protests in the past,” Robinson said, referring to the university’s history of protesting poor housing conditions that stems back decades. “People back then in those protests, they didn’t have access to platforms that we have now. And because social media moves so quickly and word can spread so fast about protests or about the conditions here at Howard, I was thinking that this is what I need to do.  I need to use my platform to speak up.”

Another aspect of the protests that have garnered attention is the growing number of tents outside of the Blackburn Center. Nicknamed by the demonstrators as Tent City, at least 30 tents have been set up outside, with three to five students in each one.

Student demonstrators have been sleeping overnight in tents in cold Washington, DC temperatures, which drop as low as the 40s at night.  Some alumni are also sleeping there to stand in solidarity.

“It’s a very, big family out there,” Robinson remarked.

Photo Credit: Chandler Robinson

Homecoming boycotts

Since the protest, most students have boycotted homecoming, which took place Oct. 16-24. Celebrities such as Gucci Mane joined in solidarity. The rapper and his group, 1017, were supposed to headline the homecoming concert. Instead, the Live Moment constructed their own version of homecoming that week called Blackburn Homecoming.

The festivities were supposed to include performances from the band and Divine 9. But Robinson said the university put a halt to those activities. Emails were allegedly sent out to organizations and administrations threatening expulsion and firing of anyone who participated in the protests.

“RAs would risk losing their jobs, people in the band they can’t perform at the protest so sometimes they performed near us,” Robinson explained.  “And athletes can’t be seen at the protest; band members, majorettes, things of that nature can’t be seen at the protest or identified at the protest.”

Photo Credit: Chandler Robinson

Administration calling for protests to end

On Tuesday, Dr. Frederick released a statement Monday saying that the university had shared a detailed housing plan and called for an end to the protesting.

“The provost and University’s general counsel met with leaders of the student protest and their legal counsel and engaged in a discussion regarding the path forward,” Frederick said. “As conveyed at that meeting, the University is willing to continue engaging in substantive conversations with student protesters and leaders regarding their expressed concerns. The occupation of the Blackburn center must end.”

The week before, the board of trustees released a statement stating that they recognize the students’ efforts and are “committed to helping these students and working with the administration to ensure adequate on-campus housing conditions.”

But while the administration wants protests to end, students are standing firm and are committed to continuing the demonstrations until their demands are met.

Photo Credit: Chandler Robinson

Staying a little longer

While some of Robinson’s classmates have decided to transfer, Robinson says she intends to stay a little longer in the ‘good trouble’ and keep fighting the good fight. But despite the troubles, there’s still love.

“I want to stay just because I want to see this protest through,” she said. “I want to change Howard because I think that Howard is a great school. As long as we can have transparent and open conversations with our Board of Trustees and with our administration, I think we have the bones again, to be a great school, to have a great community because we have great students.”

The social justice and policy department at the University of Florida,

Robinson adds that her parents are upset about the situation, but they stand behind her decision on whether she chooses to stay or transfer.

“God forbid, this protest changes nothing, or I find mold in my room, I will be transferring.”

To support, demonstrators are asking for hot, covered meals, tents, warm blankets, and portable heaters. Donors can also contribute financially via Cash App to $thelivemovement.

Follow the Live Moment on Instagram for the latest updates on Howard University protests.

Alexia McKay

A working journalist, entrepreneur and founder of RoyalTee Enterprises. Born and raised in Tampa, Fla. The vision of RoyalTee was inspired in 2015 by Alexia’s ambitions to return to her passion for creative writing and publishing and create a platform to showcase the excellence of minority women across the country through professional, personal and social ventures.