Where We Stand

History of Violence Against Black Churches

Yesterday the final victim of the massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was laid to rest.  The heinous murders once again exposed the long history of racially-motivated attacks on black churches.  For nearly 200 years African American churches have been targeted not only because they are houses of worship, but also because they are places of solace, education, activism and most importantly autonomy.

The African Church, predecessor to Emanuel AME Church, was destroyed in 1822 following the Denmark Vesey conspiracy.  In the aftermath of the Civil War hundreds of black churches throughout the south were attacked and destroyed from 1866-1872, when more than 20,000 people lost their lives trying to give meaning to emancipation and freedom as the Ku Klux Klan and other organizations resisted change and used violence, intimidation and terror to reinstated a form of white supremacy throughout the region.

Assaults on black churches continued through the Jim Crow era with increased attacks during the Civil Rights Movement.  The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four girls and injured 20 more, is seared into the consciousness of America, but that heinous act of violence was not alone.  For instance, during the summer after the devastating incident in Birmingham 37 churches were attacked. 

Violence did not end with the successes of the Civil Rights Movement.  In the 1990s, black churches were again the targets of a wave of arsons and firebombings, when more than 100 African American houses of worship were attacked in a 21-month period.  Again in the new millennium black churches have been sights of violence.  For example, following the 2008 election of Barack Obama an individual decided to express his frustration by burning the Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Finally, in the wake of the tragic events of June 17th in Charleston, South Carolina there have been a string of fires at black churches in Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Florida.

It is important to understand this history and the legacy of slavery, racism and white supremacy in America.  We live in a state that fought against slavery, but despite that history we have signs of the confederacy and white supremacy around us everyday, whether it is a flag vanity license plate, one flying on private property across from the Hillsdale Elementary School in Paola, another on the back of a truck driving through the streets of Lawrence, or even more overt the Ku Klux Klan attempting to recruit members in our state’s capital days after the Charleston shooting.  We urge you to become historically aware and stamp out hate wherever it rears its head.

Shawn Leigh Alexander, African & African-American Studies and The Office of Multicultural Affairs | July 1, 2015

OMA Statement Regarding Church Shooting

It is with heavy hearts that we issue this statement regarding the violence at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last night. This act resulted in the loss of 9 lives and unspeakable hurt across the nation. We know that many of you may be in pain and we invite you to visit our office today, at any point, to speak with any of our staff members. Additionally, we will hold a community gathering at 12:15 in SMRC lobby. This informal, unstructured time will be a space for reflection, conversation and meditation. A representative from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) will be available during that time for anyone that would like to speak with a counselor.

As we move through the coming hours, days, weeks and months, please know the OMA is an affirming space for you to share your feelings and have critical conversation. The cumulative impact of this year weighs heavy and we hope that we can provide a space for you to rest your burden, if only, for a little while.

Statement & Events in response to campus stereotypes

Last week, during Rock Chalk Revue, an offensive stereotype of Latin@s was part of one of the skits. Though we appreciate the swift response from Rock Chalk Revue and the individual student involved, we want to acknowledge that skit had deep impact within the campus community; it was hurtful and caused much pain within the Latin@, specifically, and the greater campus community. The mission of the Office of Multicultural Affairs is to cultivate an inclusive campus community. Our office is committed to helping students heal and learn from this incident. We must continue to educate ourselves and our community around cultural appropriation, microaggressions and  issues of injustice. The Hispanic American Leadership Organization and the OMA have two events this week to address the impact this has had on the entire campus community. We strongly encourage attendance at both events as we work to create a shift in the cultural divide on campus that can lead to creating a more inclusive community. If you would like additional educational opportunities, the OMA is available to provide workshops and/or discussions.

Thursday, March 12: #IAmNotPaco Discussion with HALO, 7:00, SMRC Classroom

Friday, March 13: Community Conversation: Addressing Race on Campus, 12:00, SMRC Classroom (will also address SAE at OU events)

Statement on Shooting of Muslim Students/LGBT Protections Rescinded by Gov. Sam Brownback

Over the last week our campus community has been impacted by two recent events: The shooting of three Muslim students at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC and the executive order by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to reverse a 2007 measure that barred employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender state workers. We understand and honor that there are several other current occurrences affecting various communities as well.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs wants to reiterate to the campus community that we remain committed to working toward social justice and equity for all. We stand in solidarity with ALL students, faculty and staff and are here to support, listen and provide a safe space for ALL to grieve, process and heal. This space belongs to you.

Every individual in this community matters and deserves to be seen, accounted for and included in a safe environment. We are a resource for all students, faculty, and staff and are continually recommitting to our own mission to provide social justice education and inclusive learning environments. Together we can continue to make our community a better place to live, work, and learn.

Statement on Shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson/Choking Death of Eric Garner

Last night a grand jury in New York made the decision not to indict an officer for the choking death of Eric Garner. This decision followed closely behind the non-indictment of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. We in the Office of Multicultural Affairs acknowledge that both of these decisions have left many of us in the KU community frustrated, sad, and afraid. We acknowledge that racism, racial profiling, and police brutality is very real and has negative impacts in our communities and in our world. We recognize that there is disproportionate impact in communities of color leaving parents without children and children without parents. We recognize that we live in a country that is not accustomed to or comfortable with talking about the dynamics of race.

As we are an office committed to the ideals of social justice, we open our space to those in the community looking to process these decisions, discuss the realities of racism in our country, and support those interested in creating inclusive and safe environments for all.

We are inspired by our students speaking out against injustice through their peaceful protests and are open to conversations or answering questions of those community members interested in learning more. We are a resource for all students, faculty, and staff and are continually recommitting to our own mission to provide social justice education and inclusive learning environments. Together we can continue to make our community a better place to live, work, and learn.


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