New group aims to create allyship on campus

%28from+left%29+Sean+Curran%2C+Treasurer%2C+Jada+Hampton%2C+Publicity+Chair%2C+Charlotte+Prieu%2C+Co-President.%0D%0D

Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

(from left) Sean Curran, Treasurer, Jada Hampton, Publicity Chair, Charlotte Prieu, Co-President.

By Taylor Hoffman

Last year, emotions ran high across the country in the wake of the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in New York City, Freddie Gray in Cleveland and many others, spearheading protests and movements like Black Lives Matter and #BeingBlackatIllinois. On Feb. 4, the Central Black Student Union, or CBSU, facilitated a town hall meeting at Oglesby Lounge at FAR to start a dialogue on campus about these events and the issue of police brutality, which sparked high-energy discussion and goals for more diversity on campus.

This was where University students Lincy Pompilus and Charlotte Prieu met, and after realizing their joint passion for racial justice, the pair decided to create the registered student organization Allies for Racial Justice.

The club’s goal is creating a safe space for members to share, participate in self-education and actively listen to others and their experiences. Co-presidents Pompilus and Prieu plan on bringing in professors and lecturers and on incorporating photography, spoken word, rap, videos and drawings in order to help facilitate self-reflection. Starting on Sept. 9, the group meets every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in Lincoln Hall.

Pompilus, senior in Social Work, said that one comment at the February town hall meeting struck her and helped inspire the creation of their organization. She explained that a student commented about people needing to stop challenging the “Black Lives Matter” statement with the “All Lives Matter” statement.

Pompilus, who is also an organizer of the “It Happens Here” sexual assault campaign, said she agreed with the comment, but wasn’t sure how to fill that void for others who didn’t understand it.

“It’s true that all lives matter, but specifically black lives are not being seen that way, and then that’s when I realized that there was a space that needed to be created to discuss these things,” Pompilus said.

Prieu, a graduate student in French and Linguistics, said the concept of the club and being an ally remained with her after the countless rallies and protests last year.

She also said that while her French heritage shaped her experiences differently than her peers, she can still draw back on experiences of wanting to be an ally.

“In grade school I had a friend who was bi-racial and would always get into trouble for talking, but I would not … I really didn’t like the feeling of unfairness,” she said.

It took time for Prieu to realize the effects that privilege and oppression had on her in that early stage of childhood, but when she did, her passion began to engulf her. She now wants to extend this passion to others with Allies for Racial Justice.

“I’m hoping to see a variety of people at our meetings and conversations,” she said. “It’s not easy to realize your part of the system is not right, but that’s what we’re looking for.”

Prieu encouraged Sean Curran, a fellow graduate student in French and Linguistics who shares a commonality for racial justice, to be a part of the organization.

Curran, now the treasurer of Allies for Racial Justice, stressed the importance of attending the organization’s discussions.

“I remember thinking, you’re right … I need to be there,” he said.

Curran said he strives to expand his knowledge and experiences through working with people and having healthy dialogues. He explained that his identity of being white allowed him to understand privilege and oppression in new ways.

“I owe my students (as a TA) who are from various identities to my very best self, my most educated self,” he said. “I owe them my attentiveness … to their concerns.”

Curran said he also identifies with the queer community and uses that experience to become more sensitive toward people who do not speak out.

“I’m worried that people won’t say things or speak out because they are afraid of retribution, but I understand that’s their reality at the moment in our society,” Curran said.

Pompilus, Prieu and Curran all stress the need for a group like Allies for Racial Justice, but they said they also understand the struggle of talking about difficult topics. Attending an Allies for Racial Justice discussion can be the first step.

“Sometimes you have to be uncomfortable to be comfortable,” Prieu said.

[email protected]