Kenyon Students for Gun Sense (KSGS) and the Black Student Union (BSU) are co-sponsoring a week of events to encourage campus discussion about police and gun violence against people of color.
The week is the first collaboration of its kind between KSGS and BSU. It began with a discussion on gun violence on Sunday, Oct. 21 in Bemis Music Room.
“As people working towards gun violence prevention, we look at statistics a lot, and race is an unavoidable intersection with gun violence and, in my opinion, the most important one,” Cat Von Holt ’19, president of KSGS, said after the meeting. Von Holt also expressed concerns about the identity of the gun violence prevention community, referring to it as predominantly rich, white and suburban.
Von Holt then pointed out that victims of gun violence are predominantly black. According to the CDC, black people are twice as likely overall to be victims of gun violence than white people. The disparity is especially stark in Washington D.C., where a black person is 13 times more likely to be shot and killed than a white person. Van Holt sees a clear problem in prevention and intervention when victims themselves are not represented by those advocating for said prevention.
“Race and Gun Violence Awareness Week” started on Sunday during BSU’s weekly meeting. The discussion focused on race and gun violence, and consisted of a formal presentation by Jessie Gorovitz ’19, vice president of KSGS, as well as personal discussion from members of BSU.
Gorovitz presented statistics from 2012 that identified 58 percent of gun violence victims as black, despite black people comprising only about 12 percent of the U.S. population. Data from 2016, released by the CDC, confirms that 58 percent of firearm homicide victims were black, while 39 percent were white. The discussion also touched briefly on solutions to gun violence such as community policing and preventative measures that could be taken by police departments.
“A big part of what we wanted to do tonight [was] to listen to people’s experiences and obviously most of that is going to have to do with the problem. The problem is huge,” Von Holt said.
The second event of the week was a screening of “Whose Streets?” on Monday, Oct. 22. “Whose Streets?” is a 2017 documentary directed by Sabaah Folayan about the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. in 2014. Including interviews and on-the-ground material shot by the filmmakers, the documentary consists of footage primarily taken on phones or cameras by everyday citizens of Ferguson. The film begins with footage of the crowd gathering where Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson, and then moves through footage edited together from significant protests following the Brown shooting.
The film’s footage was captured by individuals using their personal devices, rather than in the traditional mode of a documentarian or journalist filming them. Along with this narrative provided by cell phone footage, “Whose Streets?” also closely follows several key members of the protests in Ferguson, including Brittany Ferrell and David Whitt, two activists each trying to balance family life with protesting. Whitt kept with him a camcorder with a “Copwatch” sticker on it, so he could let police officers know that he was watching and waiting to document any injustice.
“Even though we are KSGS as a club, I encourage people to come to BSU meetings too,” Von Holt said. “There need to be more connections between people talking about these issues.”
The week will conclude today with a discussion on policing and gun violence in Chadeayne Dining Room at 6 p.m.