Students seek awareness in campus mural
A group of students at the State University of New York at Fredonia are advocating for a Black Lives Matter road mural to be put on campus.
Tim Snider, a student at Fredonia, with a group of fellow supporters, wants to create a mural with the words “Black Lives Matter” somewhere on the campus. This mural would prove the campus’s willingness to support their students, according to Snider. “The students of SUNY Fredonia want to create this mural as a sign that the new administration of our campus is willing to stand up for the black community at our university,” Snider said. “We want this road to be a significant start to a series of changes to our campus to help foster a more welcoming environment for black students.”
The group is doing this not only for the black students of Fredonia, they want to bring the mural to campus to remember the lives that have been lost due to racial injustice in the country. “It stands for real inclusion not only for black students, but for other minority students as well,” said Jameila Burton, President of the Black Student Union at SUNY Fredonia. “This is just a stepping stone for students from different cultural backgrounds to come together to acknowledge biases and stereotypes in order to create a solution and real change, not only on a college campus, but throughout life experiences.”
Originally, they hoped the mural could be painted on one of the campus roads, but the roads are state property and the Department of Transportation does not allow anything to be painted on roads. The group has different ideas floating around, such as on the sidewalk from Reed Library to Starbucks or on the sidewalk in front of University Commons. For now, though, the location of the proposed mural is to be determined.
“The mural is so important to me because as a black student entering a public white institution, I felt uncomfortable especially with the things that I have experienced in regards to microaggressions and the lack of support for black students,” Burton said. “I want this mural to bring reassurance to incoming black students after I graduate that they are welcome and that the school actually supports them and cares about their well being. I want black students to see that their voices matter and things can change.”
Snider explained that the passion and inspiration for this project proposal comes from their love of all people and their support of the black community. “For so long our school has constantly ignored the fact that we have high racial tensions on our campus because we are a primarily white institution,” Snider said. “We thought about what we could do to see how far our administrations are willing to go to support the students, but more specifically students of color.
“We have had too many racially motivated incidents and all we get is an email. We are pushing for institutional change in the long run, but testing whether or not they will support their students by requesting something as simple as painting a road.”
So far, the group has talked with President Dr. Stephen Kolison twice, working on the logistics of the project, such as who would sponsor it, who would pay for it, and the location. “We understand things can’t just be done willy nilly, there is a process,” Snider said. “We are in the middle of writing a resolution to be sent to the Student Association, then it will eventually go to the University Senate, which is where faculty members vote on the resolution.”
Snider explained that their experiences being underrepresented in society as a member of the LGBTQ+ community have also encouraged them to care so much for the black community. “I know what it feels like to be underrepresented, unheard, and disenfranchised. Obviously I can’t explain a black experience because I am not a black person,” Snider said. “But if what I experience is only a fraction of what the black community faces on a daily basis and has been facing for about 400 years, then that right there is all the motivation I need.”
Snider explained that in 50 years, when their kids and grandkids are learning about the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent happenings in the country, they want to be on the side that fought for equal rights for everybody. “Right now, especially in the black community, they don’t have the same opportunities as even me. I am Native American, but I have a much lighter complexion so I have a lot more privilege than the black community does on a daily basis,” Snider said. “People say that all lives matter and we aren’t saying they don’t, but they won’t all matter until black lives matter. I don’t want to be part of a moment, I want to be part of a movement.”
The group advocating the mural made a change.org petition that had about 1,000 signatures, but was unfortunately taken down because someone reported it. Another petition has been made in its place and Snider encourages those who believe in the cause to sign.
“Fredonia will no longer have the comfort of my silence. I have the privilege to stay silent, but me staying silent benefits no one,” Snider said. “I am determined to make a difference and right now, it is with the Black Lives Matter movement.”