One of the largest hot button issues of the century made its way from the television screen and into Hamilton Classroom (HCL) 8. On Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 6 p.m., activist Samuel Sinyangwe arrived to give a speech on police brutality and racism in America.
The event was organized by student-run organizations Students Targeting Oppressive Powers (STOP) and All Power to the Imagination (API). The organizations advertised the event through Facebook, the Forum and fliers placed around campus. Nearly 70 students, faculty and alums were in attendance.
“I decided to come to this event because I am interested in police brutality because it affects me as a black person, and as a black male especially,” second-year Paul Loriston said.
Loriston described Sinyangwe as compelling, noting the importance of what he had to say. Others shared this sentiment.
“This isn’t far from home, it’s something that impacts our community,” third-year and API member Christina Harn said. “I think we all have the work of educating ourselves to the reality of the situation.”
Sinyangwe specializes in policy analysis and data science and is affiliated with Campaign Zero, a national platform to end police violence in the U.S. through policy solutions. Campaign Zero focuses on the trend of police brutality in conjunction with people of color.
“As young people, we have unique skills to use technology in a way that is incredibly effective to raise awareness about what’s happening and to hold institutions accountable,” Sinyangwe said.
Sinyangwe presented statistical information about police brutality as well as past instances of police brutality in the deaths of young, black males. This included an interactive map that marked locations where there had been reported instances of these killings. He also explored the role that gender and mental illness play.
Despite the somber tone of the event, Sinyangwe was able to elicit laughter from the audience. He also spoke of actions taken by Campaign Zero to speak with presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about how this issue could be addressed in their platforms.
“What drew me into this work was when Trayvon Martin was killed and Zimmerman was acquitted, that happened about 15 minutes away from my house,” Sinyangwe said. “I went to soccer practice over there, I was like the kid who got dropped off by the bus and walked home and got a bag of Skittles and sweet tea every single day. That could have been me and so it made it very personal for me.”
Attendees asked questions concerning the methodology of the statistics used in the presentation. Some statistics included that there was a reported $262,000 wage gap between white and black coworkers.
“There were some insightful questions, and I could tell that there was an enthusiasm and people were looking for ways to get involved and different ways to be the change that they want to see in the world,” Sinyangwe said. “I think that that is the spirit that we need to change the world.”
More information on Campaign Zero can be found at joincampaignzero.org. Samuel Sinyangwe can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.