Pittsburghers march for ‘The Dream’

Written By Matt Petras

    photo by Sean Eaton
Demonstrators marched for four miles, beginning in Oakland and ending Downtown on Monday, Jan. 19 for Mass March Against Racist Wars at Home and Abroad.

  photo by Sean Eaton
Gabe Kish of Pittsburgh was one of thousands to attend the Mass March Against Racist Wars at Home and Abroad on Monday, Jan. 19.

Members of the predominantly- white student organization Student Solidarity Organization (SSO) admitted to privilege and engaged in an anti-racism march on Monday, Jan. 19.

“We’re angry. The fact that we still have to be here is why we’re here,” said junior photojournalism major Lauren Finkel at the start of the event. 

Mass March Against the Racist Wars at Home and Abroad was organized by We Change Pittsburgh, a political activist group that aims to rid of institutional racism in Pittsburgh, according to its official website. 

The event was hosted by Julia Johnson, Tayfun Gol, Celeste Smithand Pete Shell, according to the event’s Facebook page.  

The march began around 6 p.m. between Forbes and Bigelow avenues, and ended Downtown at the City-Council Building around 9 p.m. Several students associated with SSO attended much or the entirety of the event, most meeting each other near a local restaurant before including themselves in the event. 

At the start, members of SSO preoccupied themselves mainly with passing out fliers to attendants of the march. On the fliers were guides to the various songs and chants prepared before the event. 

These fliers were made by We Change Pittsburgh with no direct connection to SSO, said SSO founder and senior global cultural studies major Samey Lee.

The event was bustling with signs and fliers, some simpler than others, some focused more on economic issues with a racial angle, some referencing high-profile United States events involving police and black men. One blue sign with gold text read, “Racism is a tool of war.” Another was neon, with the letters “MLK” in thick black. Some posters criticized capitalism for being inherently racist. 

Attendees passed out copies of a January edition the Liberation: Newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. This edition focused on racial issues. 

A multitude of specific issues, many with a local angle, were raised in speeches. These were given at the start and end of the event and a few times in between by the hosts along with other speakers, touching on topics from prison policy to unemployment. 

“The police who kill blacks and Latinos with impunity are the real criminals,” said speaker and host Gol, when addressing the claim that people of color are criminal at the start of the event. 

There was a moment of silence for recent and prominent black deaths at the hands of police officers, such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner, whose names were read aloud in between silences.  

While most of the content centered upon issues African-Americans face, other races were noted, such as the foreign recipients of U.S. military action overseas, according to the official website of We Change Pittsburgh.

This event was sponsored by numerous organizations, such as the LGBTQIA advocacy group Garden of Peace Project, according to its official Facebook page. 

A full list of the exact demands of We Change Pittsburgh is available on the Local and National Demands section of the group’s official website. 

In the crowd of devoted protestors, members of SSO found their place. Finkel focused on snapping pictures and filming videos of the protest in between bouts of shouting with the chants and joining in on the singing. This material will be shared on the SSO Facebook page, according to Finkel. 

Junior cinema production major Dane Hager spent a lot of time belting into a small, red megaphone. At one point, his previously strong voice cracked mid-chant, leaving his vocal cords weak for the rest of the protest. For Jay, the night was spent similarly. 

One prominent aspect of the nuanced message of the march is the notion of “End White Silence,” which is a phrase that promotes an end to silence from whites on injustice toward people of color. This notion was also exacerbated in the various speeches and posters, as well as emphatically supported by SSO.

“As a majority white club, we must recognize our privilege and raise others’ voices up,” Lee said before the event. 

There is a passion on issues of racial injustice to be found in the young members of this University club.

“Stuff like this is inspiring,” Finkel said. 

The crowd was diverse, across not just race but also things like age and sex, according to junior psychology/global cultural studies double major and SSO member Hana Valle. 

Students of all demographics are strongly encouraged to join SSO to aid in the club’s goal of giving voices to folks who are often denied one, Lee said. 

SSO members at the event were quick to compliment the organizers and other protestors. 

“As important as it is to hear from us,” said junior cinema production major and SSO member Dane Hager, “it’s more important to hear from [those organizers].” 

photo by Sean Eaton

photo by Sean Eaton

photo by Sean Eaton

photo by Sean Eaton