Remembering Race at Brown

Inspired by Brown’s 250th anniversary, the sophomore seminar Race and Remembering collaborated to critically examine race at Brown University. This digital exhibit highlights University legacies of erasure and histories of resistance. This is a call to REMEMBER.

Author: Arely M Diaz-Loza

SOURCES + FURTHER READING

Sources:

Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013.
Report of the Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013. February 2014.

New York Civil Liberties Union. New York, NY.
<http://www.nyclu.org/content/stop-and-frisk-data>

Paxson, Christina. “Coal Divestment Update.” October 27, 2014. <http://brown.edu/about/administration/president/2013-10-27-coal-divestment-update>

 

Further Reading:

This source provides an in-depth look into the history of Stop and Frisk, the policing strategy that protestors felt was excluded from promotional materials for Ray Kelly’s lecture:

Naspretto, Ernie. “The real history of stop-and-frisk.” NY Daily News. New York. June 3, 2012. <http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/real-history-stop-and-frisk-article-1.1088494>

This video captures the protest from two important angles: the rally that took place outside of the lecture’s site and the protests that happened inside of the site during the lecture. Those interested on a more thorough account of what happened, and some of the aftermath, can watch this video:

Kassie, Emily. “Kelly Protest from Inside.” Brown Political Review. Providence, Rhode Island. October 30, 2013.<http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2013/10/nypd-commissioner-ray-kelly-shut-down-at-brown/>

This article explains the Trayvon Martin shooting in great detail. Although not stated, it is implied that George Zimmerman racially profiled Martin during his pursuit:

Weinstein, Adam. “The Trayvon Martin Killing, Explained.”  Mother Jones. San Francsico, California. March 18, 2012.<http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/what-happened-trayvon-martin-explained>

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Protestors

STOP POLICE BRUTALITY: Protesters rallied in front of the List Art Center before and during the event. Photo courtesy of Richie Leng.

Although many disapproved of the cancellation, protesters viewed it as a victory. After being disillusioned with the divest coal decision and the rejection of the Kelly protestors’ demands, students took matters into their own hands because they felt the University was not listening to them.

 

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President Paxson’s Letter

A SAD DAY FOR BROWN: President Paxson sent this email to the Brown community a few hours after the cancellation of the Ray Kelly event.

A SAD DAY FOR BROWN: President Paxson sent this email to the Brown community a few hours after the cancellation of the Ray Kelly event.

In this response, President Paxson describes her disapproval of the cancellation, which echoed the opinion of other members in the Brown community who believed that the cancellation disregarded the base values of the University: the free exchange of ideas and the right to speak.

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Lecture Poster

This controversial poster was hung around Brown’s campus to promote Ray Kelly’s lecture.

PROACTIVE POLICING: Promoters of the Ray Kelly lecture displayed this poster around campus. The poster proved to spark controversy and ignite protesters.

Protestors argued that promotional materials, such as this poster, failed to mention the highly disputed Stop and Frisk policy and instead celebrated a “sanitized” version of Kelly’s policing strategies.[1]  Stop and Frisk is infamous for its perpetuation of racial profiling  techniques in minority communities. Reports note that 532,911 New Yorkers were stopped by police in 2012. Out of that number, 284,229 (55 percent) were Black, 165,140 (32 percent) were Latino, and 50,366 (10 percent) were white.[2]

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[1] Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, Report of the Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, February 2014, 3.

[2] New York Police Department reports as presented by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The Events of October 29, 2013

On October 29, 2013, Brown University students and Providence community members from groups Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) and Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) protested a controversial lecture on campus. Protestors were outraged by the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions’ decision to select Raymond “Ray” Kelly, New York City Police Department’s Commissioner, as the speaker for the lecture.[1] Protestors held cardboard signs that read “(RAY)CIST KELLY” and chants such as “Ray Kelly you can’t hide, we charge you with homicide!” were heard. The event was cancelled when protestors in the audience continually silenced Kelly. Despite criticism from President Christina Paxson and Brown community members, Kelly’s silencing was inevitable due to tensions on and off campus.

Although it seems that conflict tensions arose when Kelly was announced as speaker, conflict between the University and student activists actually began after President Paxson’s announcement that Brown would not divest from companies that use coal despite student outcries.[2] This announcement came a day before Director of the Taubman Center, Marrion Orr, informed a protest leader that the lecture would continue as planned regardless of cancellation demands.[3] This decision intensified feelings on campus and provoked students to protest.

Aside from the issues on campus, there were also off-campus issues that provoked students to protest Kelly’s lecture. Promotional materials advertising the lecture did not mention controversial policing strategies such as Stop and Frisk, which is known to perpetuate racial profiling against minorities.[4] Kelly’s lecture was announced two months after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, which combined both off-campus racial tension with on-campus frustrations that climaxed when Kelly was silenced by student protesters.

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[1] Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, Report of the Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, February 2014, 3.

[2] Christina Paxson, “Coal Divestment Update,” October 27, 2014.

[3] Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, Report of the Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, February 2014, 4-5.

[4] Primary Source II: PROACTIVE POLICING