Members of the faculty community will partner with their students, student organizations, and other campus entities through a new initiative, the Black Cross Project, to start a campuswide dialogue about race and the meaning of social justice in the United States. It will take place from November 8 through 13, highlighted by a panel discussion, “Race, Violence, and the Struggle for Social Justice,” on Thursday, November 12, at 12:15 p.m.
The project gets its name from 300 small black crosses to be installed by faculty members and their students in the Horace Mann Quad on Sunday, November 8. The crosses, which will remain on display for one week, represent the number of unarmed people of color who have died in police custody or have been killed by officers from 2012 to 2015. The installation will be accompanied by a position statement, which in part reads, “Ultimately, the black crosses strive to make forms of racism and racial injustice visible and therefore subject to public acknowledgment and dialogue. As visual representations of those violently deprived of justice, the black crosses seek to redraw boundaries of what is visible and invisible and subject to censure and repression.”
William White, director of faculty development and professor of social and psychological foundations of education, conceived of the project. Alexander Means, assistant professor of social and psychological foundations, and Sarah Hinderliter, associate professor of fine arts, embraced the idea and incorporated it into classes they teach. Jason Parker, diversity program coordinator, joined the project and assisted in a numerous ways, including finding ways to incorporate additional student voices.
“It’s a way to bring concepts out of books and into the public arena,” said Means. “I can’t emphasize this enough: this installation is not just about police violence. We are trying to use that particular issue as an entry point into discussing a whole host of issues related to racial justice in American society.”
Tee-Ahna Gilmore, a junior majoring in childhood education, is taking Means’s course to complete the urban civic education minor. “The minor is focused around sociology, education, and civic engagement in the urban community,” she said. “In this course, we have been learning how to develop and implement community service projects around the needs of urban youth. I love the Black Cross Project, because I think it helps people understand the social and racial injustice targeted toward people of the minority. It’s not meant to offend anyone; it’s meant to unveil the issues in society. Once people understand that, they will be more understanding of the project.”
White sees the Black Cross Project as a way to model reasoned, fact-based discourse about controversial issues. He also sees another important point: by 2044, the United States population will be “majority minority.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 50.3 percent of America’s population will, by then, belong to a race or ethnic group now classified as a minority. The same source predicts that by 2020—less than five years from now—slightly more than half of people under age 18 will be “minority,” defined as anything other than non-Hispanic white.
“Our mission at Buffalo State is to provide access to higher education and excellence in the education we deliver,” said White. “We want to meet students where they are. We want to engage them and our community in intellectual conversations that matter. We want, in short, to serve our students well by openly talking about the debilitating consequences of social injustice in our country while we also seek ways to create caring communities that cooperate in the search for answers to the questions that trouble our society.”
The project has received the support of United Students Government, the Buffalo State Newman Center, University Police, and the Equity and Campus Diversity Office.
Schedule for Black Cross Project Events
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