While en route to the largest public anti-racism demonstration in the nation’s capital, University of Miami senior and National Pan-Hellenic Council President Marckell Williams chatted with Distraction about UM’s compelling, premier Black Greek association. Today, the council’s 43 representatives serve as avid influencers during the #BlackLivesMatters apex, fighting to cease police brutality and systemic oppression across both our collegiate union and the country at large.
[Marching in solidarity] is … extremely stressful and draining. To see that we [Black people] are continuing to fight for the basic rights of humanity is mind-blowing. It is evident that we are not being heard considering protests have remained large in scale and new laws have been created to fight against police brutality and racial injustices.— Bryce Pickett, Alpha Phi Alpha
Distraction: Can you provide us some quick context first on what is the NPHC and its mission?
Williams: We are a council comprised of nine historically Black fraternities and sororities standing with the foundations of the Civil Rights Movement. We strive to uphold the values of our council’s founders to “promote the well-being of [our] affiliate fraternities and sororities, facilitate the establishment and development of local councils of the NPHC and provide leadership training for [our] constituents.” We collaborate with local chapters and contribute to major organizations such as the NAACP and United Negro College Fund to work toward creating social change for people of color.
I protest because I want change. I don’t want my kids to have to see people who look like them die in the streets. I want them to be proud of being Black not afraid.— Taj Bland, Kappa Alpha Psi & NPHC VP
D: Tell us about how UM’s NPHC brothers and sisters emphatically serve our community throughout the school year.
W: Our organizations have volunteered alongside Kids & Culture, serving and educating young students in need. We’ve also welcomed lower-class middle and high schoolers from local public schools to campus and given tours, hosted school-wide food and clothes drives and packed and distributed lunches to homeless people around Miami-Dade County neighborhoods.
As a Black man, I protest to empower and uplift. I would be doing an unjust to my community, my ancestors and future generations if I chose to sit back and do nothing. The issues at hand within our country are prevalent and normalized, as if Black people should be content with living in modern day slavery. I protest to end the stigma of dehumanizing Black people and receive justice for all the individuals and families who were made into an example!— Pickett
D: Does the NPHC work in tandem with United Black Students and other multicultural groups at UM?
W: Yes! In fact, all Black campus leaders work together right now as the Black Leadership Student Caucus — this is not an official organization, but a title we use to collectively identify the presidents of Student Government as well as UBS, UM NAACP and other Black campus unions. On June 8, the BLSC virtually united for a livestreamed “Black State of the Union” to address the student body and describe plans to assure our Black community feels supported, valued and comfortable upon returning to the U. The BLSC subsequently wrote an impassioned letter to the university administration stating a definite list of demands we need to see in the school environment so we can understand the measures they are seriously taking. Most recently, in honor of Juneteenth, UMTV’s “The Culture” — a channel uniquely produced by and for Black students — developed a video highlighting the voices of BLSC which dropped on Instagram @UMTVCulture.
Protesting in this current day and time has been empowering in a way. It has made me proud to be Black and shows our unity as a people and allies.— Bland
D: With everyone scattered distantly away from campus for the time being, how is the NPHC motivating the UM student body to get involved and counteract global racial bias and police hostility?
W: Both the @UMiamiNPHC and @UMGreekLife Instagrams have posted digital sources for people to donate, sign, call and advocate for BLM and the NAACP legal defense line. Joining the cause doesn’t necessarily equate to protesting on the streets; we want to empower our community to contribute from home, as there are so many small ways people can demand justice for all through social media. For those who chose to actively demonstrate, we also feature content for protestors with tips to show up prepared, understand their rights to participate and record, have all their electronics charged and get help if they feel they are being treated wrongly. Our council members are currently fighting on the front lines in major cities like Miami, Philadelphia and New York. Our activism extends beyond our frustration over recent unjust events; this is a significant issue that has only built up in the U.S. over the past 400 years, and George Floyd was just the tip of the iceberg. We are all about making a difference that will last so we don’t have to suffer through another tragedy like Floyd’s. The NPHC furthermore, historically and currently, plans to reinforce the importance of voting through starting campaigns next semester. Our voices seriously matter if we want to bring about change in our country’s future. This is an ongoing crisis that may appear like it’s not going down anytime soon, but the power to address lies in our hands.
Everyone can help! The excuse of doing nothing because of fear is the cowardly way out of not acknowledging the cruel acts against Black people. If you are unwilling to protest, sign petitions. If you can’t sign petitions, call government officials. Can’t call? Vote. But please do not willingly choose to sit back and watch other people fight for issues that are affecting us all.— Pickett
D: In light of the current worldwide pandemonium, how do your council and the greater Black community feel you have been viewed in the past in terms of university-wide inclusion? And what further ambitions must be pushed going forward in order to induce change?
W: It is important that UM takes a second to step away from just broadly appreciating and celebrating our school’s diversity and hone in specifically on the plight of Black students. We are tired of feeling like we are vaguely advocated for by using broad terms such as “people of color” when discussing our issues. It is time for the university to realize they are failing at respecting their Black students during this time and need to step it up. Soft quiet solidarity is no longer acceptable; we need loud anti-racist actions to be taken to begin to attack this incessant pandemic called racism.
I want to tell people that there are multiple ways you can help. If protesting is not your thing, then you can sign petitions or donate. If you are a creative, you can express through your art. There are so many outlets to contribute to the revolution. You have to stay consistent and diligent.— Bland
words_gianna milan photo_forrest givens, jonathan dann, reina mitchom, charles beaulieu, taj bland, marckell williams, twitter