Students and faculty at University of Missouri stood in solidarity to fight against the racial tensions and other issues on campus for months, with one graduate student resulting to a hunger strike in order for their voices to be heard. However, it was the football team's refusal to play that ultimately forced the university’s system president Tim Wolfe to step down on Monday.
This victory was a morale booster not only for Mizzou students, but also for other students of color who attend predominantly white institutions, also known as PWIs, nationwide. Despite the unprecedented outcome, the issues Mizzou students face aren't unique to that campus. Makiah Green, an advocate of equal rights for minorities at PWIs, told The Huffington Post she knows this slight progress is only the tip of the iceberg for students of color at PWIs.
That’s why Green, 23, created MyPWI, a community for students of color to vent, joke and share relatable experiences with other students across the country, in 2014. Green said that her intentions behind the creation of MyPWI was to foster a "hub where we can come together and just share resources."
For Green, she said that after four years of seeing black students face discrimination at the University of Southern California where she attended college, her boiling point occurred during her senior year. Two weeks before her commencement, she said, 79 police officers (several in riot gear) showed up at her friend's party, after a response to a noise complaint escalated and six people were arrested. Green said she and her friends believed the arrests were racially motivated.
Green, who works at a production company in Hollywood, said that’s when she realized that just because there weren't spaces for black students at many PWIs, didn't mean a space couldn't exist for them elsewhere .
We can’t even begin to have conversations about academic performance and graduation rates and retention without first talking about the comfortability of these students and if they even feel like the university is catering to their needs. Makiah Green
"I see MyPWI as an amplifier for those who are on the ground, who need support, and I see it as my duty to support them any way that I can,” she told HuffPost. "If you are in an environment where you don’t feel physically safe or you don’t feel like your existence is valued, it is very difficult to focus on anything else like class or personal relationships because you’re always concerned with the way that your peers are viewing you, the resistance that you’re meeting from your professors, or university officials so I think that just feeling safe at your university or in class is essential.”
Tweeting news, advice and memes, Green, with the help of journalist Tyree Boyd-Pates, has cultivated a safe space online for black college students. MyPWI's Twitter account has more than 2,200 followers, and Green said she hopes MyPWI empowers students to find creative ways to get their voices heard. She also said that it disheartened her that Tim Wolfe’s resignation came after the football team walked out instead of when a black man deprived himself of food for over a week saying, "profit is valued over black lives."
"I was very moved by Jonathan Butler’s decision to go on a hunger strike but at the same time, I was scared,” Green said. "I knew that like the way these systems are set up, the people in power weren’t gonna care, even with him taking those extreme measures, they still did not move the needle until money was involved which is very disturbing.”
Still, Green said she finds solace in so many students of color uniting and bringing visibility to these issues by supporting Mizzou students' resistance:
As the movement for racial equality on these school campuses grow, she said that she hopes MyPWI will grow with them, by connecting even more people and giving a voice to those without one.
"It’s rewarding seeing students come together and support one another because I think that’s the only way we’re going to get through this is if we stand together and we unite and we fight our oppression together."
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