UC Berkeley students paint Big C in solidarity with Black Lives Matter movement

Amanda Hart/File
Amanda Hart/File

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In solidarity with local and global efforts to affirm the value of black lives, several UC Berkeley students painted the Big C red, green and black early Monday morning to represent the Pan-African flag.

Six members of the Black Student Union, or BSU, set out to paint the Big C — a large emblem of the letter C nested in a hill near campus — before 5 a.m., according to Gabrielle Shuman, co-chair of political affairs for the BSU. The gesture was intended to express solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, a term used widely in recent nationwide protests against police killings of unarmed black men.

“It’s just a proud moment for us to be able to see, ‘Wow, we claimed that space,’ ” Shuman said. “Obviously, painting some colors isn’t going to drastically change anything — it’s not going to solve all our problems or necessarily accomplish all of our goals. For us, this is really a symbolic thing.”

The idea to express solidarity by painting the Big C arose from a conversation with friends and organizers, according to Shuman. She noted that the Big C is a major emblem of school spirit and that many student-athletes — whom Shuman does not believe are treated well by the campus — are black.

In addition, a BSU press release cited a campus climate survey, which it said showed that 50 percent of black students at UC Berkeley feel “prejudged by faculty based on their identity/background” and that 50 percent of black students feel they do not have the same opportunities for success as their classmates.

In the past few years, the campus and university have taken several measures to improve campus climate. UC Berkeley launched an online survey in 2013 to examine the issue, and Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced the formation of an advisory board for underrepresented minority students on campus. The university analyzed its first systemwide climate assessment last spring.

“The racial hostility on our campus is simply a microcosm of the climate that Black students and Black people at large face all over the world,” the press release read.

Shuman emphasized that the union’s action is intended to speak beyond the borders of the campus or Berkeley, citing militant attacks in Nigeria and the needs of communities in Richmond and Oakland.

The Big C is traditionally painted yellow. Christine Shaff, communications director for the campus’s facilities services, said she does not know of any campus regulations about painting the emblem.

In the past couple of months, the BSU also held a “black brunch demonstration” and a demonstration at the Golden Bear Cafe on campus, both to peacefully protest police and vigilante killings of black men.

Melissa Wen is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @melissalwen.