More than 100 community members gathered on Sproul Plaza under the midday sun Wednesday to listen to campus professors and organizers speak as part of a day of solidarity with the Black community.
The rally — initiated by Hatem Bazian, a campus lecturer in the ethnic studies department — was intended to bring together members of various campus communities to acknowledge structural racism and its impact on Black communities.
“Solidarity is an expression of collective love,” Bazian said, citing recent police shootings of Black men across the country as the impetus for the event. “It is just to say that we care and we want to do something to make a difference.”
Many who spoke at the rally are professors and lecturers from campus departments such as Near Eastern studies, Asian American studies and African American studies. Other speakers included student leaders and prominent Muslim-American scholar Zaid Shakir, who co-founded North Berkeley’s Zaytuna College with Bazian and Hamza Yusuf, another Islamic scholar.
“It is unacceptable to kill innocent human beings,” Shakir said in his address to the crowd. “We need to make that the underlying premise of everything that we do. … If we can do that, Black lives will definitely matter.”
Speakers represented Native-American, Asian-American, Black, Latinx and Muslim communities, among others.
The crowd — made up of a broad swath of racial, ethnic and religious groups — was largely quiet and attentive, bursting into applause only at the end of speeches or after salient points.
Between speakers, ASUC Senator Zaynab AbdulQadir, the event’s emcee, led the group in brief call-and-response chants, including “no justice, no peace” and “Black Lives Matter.”
“I was very moved to see our faculty members mobilizing to stand in solidarity,” AbdulQadir said. “Having other people give space for this and showing that they do care and acknowledge that this can be a very emotionally testing and traumatic time for us was just very significant to me.”
Several speakers also emphasized that demonstrators should focus their support not only on the Black men killed by police, but also on women, children and transgender people affected by police brutality.
Speakers’ calls echoed Bay Area demonstrations last week, during which activists remembered Kayla Moore, a transgender Black woman whose 2013 death in police custody is the subject of an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit brought by her father against the city of Berkeley.
“It’s important to show that racism, or any sort of prejudice, goes across borders: beyond race, beyond gender,” said Anthony Osei, an administrative assistant in the department of African American studies who attended the rally. “Having all these different faculty members and organizations speaking here, it shows that, OK, yes, we’re talking about Black people and we’re supporting Black people, but this is something that affects all of us.”
Bazian and Hani Kharufeh, a campus senior who helped organize the event, said they intend to organize similar events each month. Kharufeh added that he hopes to extend the monthly event to other college campuses.
“My hope is that all professors on campus feel the need to address this human tragedy,” said Ula Taylor, a professor in the department of African American studies who spoke at the event. “No one has ever struggled alone and been successful.”
Later Wednesday night, the campus Multicultural Student Development task force also organized an event intended to help students of color build solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement at the Multicultural Community Center.