Talking BLM and Racism on Campus with Our Streets LUC
Our Streets LUC (Loyola University Chicago) is a student BLM organization born out of anger and hope, igniting a fire in students that the university has yet to extinguish, despite its best attempts. Black Lives Matter protests have been scattered all around the city of Chicago nearly every single day since the murder of George Floyd in May. Students of Loyola University Chicago have been protesting relentlessly in order to call attention to racial injustices on campus as well as to hold faculty and staff accountable for racist behavior. Our Streets has marched on the busy streets surrounding campus, hosted chalk-art days outside school facilities, shut down large intersections, gathered signatures for their list of demands, and much more. The organization, formed solely by student activists, has received an outpouring of support from those inside and outside the community, but the road to justice has not been easy nor been met without opposition. Tonitruale sat down with one of the organization’s founders and leader, Dorien Perry-Tillmon, who is currently a sophomore student at Loyola, studying Political Science, Film & Digital Media Production, as well as Women and Gender Studies.
1- Could you explain to those who don’t know what Our Streets LUC is?
OurStreetsLUC is a grassroots organization made up of Loyola University Chicago students who are working to improve the lives of Black students, faculty, and staff on campus.
2- What are the goals of Our Streets?
We have a detailed list of our goals/demands on our website ourstreetsluc.org, however, our overall goal is to simply make our university more inclusive for Black students. This varies from separating from the CPD to formally recognizing Black History Month on campus.
3- How did Our Streets form?
OurStreetsLUC formed after the first two protests on Loyola’s Lakeshore campus, there was a surprisingly large turnout of students and there was an overwhelming desire to continue protesting. OurStreetsLUC as a whole began and has been organized by people who did not know each other in the beginning but have grown to be good friends since August.
4- What has been the school’s general response?
The school has been overall dismissive of OurstreetsLUC and has been quite argumentative and frustrating to work with. [The] administration has personally yelled at and threatened OurStreetsLUC organizers so much that we no longer meet with them. The university has made zero progress on our demands.
5- The school has been sending out emails that Our Streets has claimed to be very performative based on how they act towards you. What actions from the school do you think would be most helpful? How is their performative activism hindering the goals of Our Streets?
I think the school would benefit most by fulfilling OurStreetsLUC’s demands which include the Black Culture Center’s list of recommendations on how to make the school a better place for Black students. The performative emails and Instagram posts only mislead people, especially white students, into thinking that the work is done and that we can stop protesting.
6- Some students were arrested on campus while peacefully protesting a little bit ago. How has this, as well as the school’s response to this incident, affected how Our Streets has approached further protests/actions?
The school simply ignored that the incident happened, however, since the incident, there has been more progress. They finally acknowledged Black Lives Matter and started having conversations with organizers about issues on campus. The problem is that the arrests struck fear into many of the protesters and slowed down our progress in the streets.
7- A PoC administrator recently quit due to racial tensions and discrimination in the workplace, especially from the Dean of Admissions, Erin Moriarty. How has this shifted the focus of Our Streets?
This greatly shifted the focus of OurStreetsLUC because Marcus Mason was someone who a lot of the organizers knew very well and it was heartbreaking to see him leave.
8- Why do you think it is important for students to get involved in organizations such
as Our Streets in order to fight racial injustices on their campus?
I think it is important for students to get involved in any and all social justice movements. As a young generation, we have the ability to make [a] change wherever we can. For us, we can make change at our school, to better the lives of Black students, faculty, and staff. Making our school a better place for everyone should be a top priority because we pay so much money to go to Loyola and it's a shame that Black students are not being treated fairly. On top of the ethics behind it, protesting is fun, and I’ve met some really cool people that I wouldn’t have met if we didn’t take the streets.
9- Having to become a prominent activist on your campus seems exhausting, especially while also being a full-time student. Has having to do all this work affected your studies?
Yes. A lot. I am so far behind in all my classes and might have to even drop this semester. Protesting takes a huge mental toll and I have even been struggling to do daily tasks such as getting out of bed.
10- What do you do when you get discouraged while fighting for Black lives especially at your own university? Do you and other PoC peers have a strong support system?
When I get discouraged I like to think about all the students who have been given a voice and a platform because of OurStreetsLUC. I think about all the future Black students that will benefit from the work that we are doing. My Black peers that I have been working with have formed a really tight bond and I can rely on them for anything. We all understand how frustrating and difficult it is to create change on campus yet we continue to do the work because we know it’s necessary.
11- Why is it important for non-Black students to get involved in cases of injustice on their own campus and in their own communities?
It is extremely important for non-Black students to get involved simply because Black students are such a minority on campus, our voices are easily overlooked. When the school sees non-Black students joining us, they realize that they have to act.
12- What do you hope the future may hold for Our Streets LUC?
In all honesty, I hope for a future where OurStreetsLUC doesn’t need to exist. I hope for a future where we can all be regular college students and have fun and just enjoy life. I really hope the school takes our demands seriously and starts putting in effort towards making Loyola a better place.
You can check out Our Streets LUC on their Instagram page: ourstreetsluc