In a video appeal, young adults implore: Stop. Don’t shoot.
We are Bethune women and Cookman men and we have dreams.”
BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Across the nation, throngs of college students have joined a #DontShoot campaign posing with each other, hands in the air – as witnesses say the hands of Michael Brown’s were as he was fatally shot last week in Ferguson, Mo.
About 300 Bethune-Cookman University students held their hands up on Monday to protest the fatal shooting. The students also made a 17 second video that asks viewers: ‘Stop. Don’t shoot. We are Bethune women and Cookman men and we have dreams.’
The students were gathered for an information session on Greek life. The protest was organized by senior Reuben Rifin of Naples, Fla. His Instagram account proclaimed, “Now I may not be able to change the world but I’ll be damned if I don’t try.”
Remembering Brown, others
“The shooting of Michael Brown is tragic because it’s not the first time this has happened,” Rifin said from the stage of the Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center. Rifin went on to list numerous shootings and physical assaults against unarmed African-Americans across the country, including Eric Garner and Ezell Ford.
Garner died last month when, as police arrested him in Staten Island, allegedly for selling single untaxed cigarettes, an officer placed him in a chokehold while several others pinned him to the ground.
Los Angeles police are investigating the shooting of Ford who died when an officer fired upon him during an “investigative stop” that led to a struggle.
Sign of surrender
The shooting of an unarmed Brown, who witnesses said raised his arms in surrender before being shot multiple times by a White police officer, touches everyone, Rifin said.
“We are people of color and we want to spread awareness,” he said. “I should be comfortable driving and not in fear for my life if I am pulled over just because of the color of my skin.”
The idea for the protest came from a photo taken at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where students held their hands up in surrender. The photo has gone viral on social media.
“Howard’s photo shows how you can say volumes without opening your mouth,” Rifin said. “B-CU supports all people of color. You don’t have to be in Missouri or New York to show that support.”
Beyond a hashtag
In an interview with the Daytona Times, Rifin who is majoring in mass communications and is the vice president of Student Government at B-CU, added that young people had to go “beyond what you see on Twitter and Instagram.”
“I shared my sentiments with my peers. I want it to go further than a hashtag. It is open season on people of color especially adolescences. We need to support each other. Anybody could be next. We should still be able to stand together and stand united.”
Rifin also shared his concerns as a young Black male. “As a United States citizen, I should feel comfortable walking down the street or driving. If I get pulled, I shouldn’t be in fear of my life. I see an officer as a friend not an enemy.
“It has been 50-plus years since the Civil Rights Act passed. We have a false sense of freedom. For those of us away from home, it is just as scary for our family as it is for us.”
Fearful at 22
Rifin participated in a Million Father March held on the first day back to school for elementary and middle school students to show them that there are positive Black men they can look up to even if they have no father figure at home. He also gave out school supplies.
Following the march, he spoke to a group of students. Although most of the students were positive, he was struck by the response of one fifth-grade student who took a photo with him imitating the photo taken with B-CU students.
“I asked him if he knew what it meant for us to place our hands up for the photo. The young man said ‘that’s what you do when the police come at you.’”
“I’m 22 years old. I’ve never been arrested. I’m not the typical stereotype of a Black male, but living in today’s world I don’t know if I’ll make it to 23.”