Black Lives Matter activists see protests as essential

Detroit Mercy sophomore Abbie McDowell has joined numerous protests. 


Abbie McDowell considers herself an activist.

“When you look at the word activist, you hear ‘act’ and that means action,” said the Detroit Mercy sophomore. And she has been taking action.

She has donated to organizations, posted content about social injustices on social media and even gone to protests in the middle of a pandemic. 

McDowell, a White Tecumseh native, is among Detroit Mercy students who have raised their voices in support of the Black Lives Matter protests that have demanded the public’s attention this summer and fall.

2020 has been a tough year for Black America.

Beloved icons, like civil rights leader John Lewis, have been lost.

A one-in-a-lifetime pandemic has hit the Black population especially hard.

And many Black Americans have been killed by police.

While Black Lives Matter has existed since 2013 when Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, the movement took on new force with the 2020 killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

This time, the cries of Black Americans are being heard.

The WNBA has put the names of multiple police brutality victims on full display, and dedicated its season to Breonna Taylor.

The NBA has followed suit by allowing players to have various sayings, such as “Black Lives Matter,” “Vote” and “Equality,” on the back of their jerseys along with their last names.

Young activists everywhere are speaking out and encouraging their peers to do the same.

Student Abbie McDowell said the movement has been empowering and positive despite what “All Lives Matter” people think.

She said that much of the violence comes from people who are not associated with BLM who show up with violent intentions in order to make the movement look bad.

She said that she supports the riots that were going on in February and are still going on today despite less media coverage.

“If you look at the history of our country, we achieved freedom and independence through property damage, through war,” she said. “It is what we have to do to get where we need to be. No one is going to say, ‘I regret the Boston Tea Party.’ ”

McDowell protested every weekend during the summer with friends in predominantly White towns.

She and her friends held up signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “White Silence Is Violence.”

She described her experiences at the protests as “eye-opening,” even when faced with backlash.

Her message to non-Black allies like herself is this: “We have a power dynamic, and it’s our problem to fix.”

Detroit Mercy junior Jiera Shears of Charlotte, North Carolina, is also passionate about the movement.

“Black Lives Matter means that our skin color should not define whether or not our lives matter,” she said. “We are all the same. We just have different skin tones and that shouldn’t define whether we live or die.”

Shears believes everyone should participate in protests at least once.

“Just being out there and chanting, or just walking silently with our fists up and holding our posters, there was this energy and you could feel the passion everyone had behind them,” she said.

Her message to non-Black supporters and those in the overall fight for equality is a thankful one.

To people who are not involved, “Your silence is loud,” said Shears.

Shears also touched on people faking their support.

“If you’re not for it, then you’re not for it and that’s fine,” she said sternly. “But don’t act like you’re for us when you’re really fighting against us.”

Sophomore Destiny Proffett lived across the Detroit River in Windsor until she was 9 years old.

She wonders if things would be better had she and her family stayed in Canada.

Proffett has been to several protests in the Detroit area.

She was so moved by each protest she attended that she wanted to organize a protest of her own.

“I shouldn’t have to fear for the lives of my family members,” she said.

She said it is important for today’s youth to get out and vote in November.

“Our generation is the generation of change,” she said. “We are becoming the majority and that means our votes are going to matter.”

Black Lives Matter has made an impression on students on the McNichols campus.

A bulletin board on the first floor of East Quad pays tribute to police brutality victims.

The names of Ayaina Stanley-Jones, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo and others are posted on the board along with their heartbreaking stories.

What do they have in common?

They are all Black Americans who were killed by police before the Black Lives Matter movement started.

A bulletin board in the East Quad building.