Spurred by the reportedly “unlivable” housing conditions at Howard University, students and community members are staging a sit-in turned live-in at the Blackburn student center to make their grievances heard. Among chief complaints include reports of expired air filters, rodent and insect infestations, moldy walls and a lack of urgency from administrators. Though reported to administration, many demonstrators have expressed that such conditions have festered since the beginning of the school year — so much so that they’ve organized with a camp-like set up on campus to encourage immediate action.
The demonstration, popularly referred to as the #BlackburnTakeover on social media, is being led by senior Aniyah Vines and has rounded over 100 students, alumni and local businesses in support of the movement. District of Columbia chapters of organizations like Freedom Fighters, Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, and Until Freedom have also stood in solidarity. Now, as the sit-in sees its first week of protest, students have survived visits from the Metropolitan Police of DC, a false fire alarm believed to be set off by university officials, and campus police intervention. But still, they continue to stand firm in their decision to occupy the center.
Demands have been communicated via The Live Movement’s Instagram account with the hope of coming to a mutual agreement, but student leaders remain dissatisfied. Here’s what they want the public and university officials to know:
A proper in-person town hall meeting with Howard University president, administration and the entire student body needs to take place
The first demand from organizers states that there must be a call for an in-person town hall meeting that would include Howard University President Wayne Frederick, administration officials, and the entire student body. While a meeting was held on the afternoon of Oct. 12, prior to the first night of occupation, it was not a town hall, but a pre-planned meeting scheduled primarily to speak with the Howard University Student Association President Kylie Burke. It was also stopped by university officials close to an hour and thirty minutes before the scheduled end time. Feeling unheard and dismissed, the student body followed Vines and other student leaders to the site of protest, thus beginning the movement.
“We’re telling administration, ‘You’re not going to waste our time anymore unless we’re talking about the demands at hand,” Vines told REVOLT with a hoarse voice. “There’s been attempts for administration to talk to the students, but the attempts have not been successful because the administration doesn’t care about the demands.”
The campus newspaper, The Hilltop, reported that President Frederick has mentioned on more than one occasion his discomfort with in-person town hall meetings due to escalations he has seen in the past, offering himself for bi-weekly meetings with the Howard University Student Association and The Hilltop instead to communicate. Still, protesters don’t feel such communication efforts are enough to truly implement change.
There must be representation for students, faculty, and alumni
Listed second of the list of demands was a call to reinstate all affiliate trustee positions including students, faculty, and alumni, which were revoked over the summer. On June 11, the Board of Trustees announced this decision via a Howard University Communications update. The update read:
“There was overwhelming consensus that our current process of governance and engagement across the University, from the board through various stakeholder groups, is not working. Furthermore, the board agreed that it needed to improve its processes and look for governance models that more closely aligned with peer leading-edge institutions.
Based on the findings of this review, submitted to the board Committee on Governance in February 2021, the board voted unanimously on June 11, 2021 to approve a single unitary class of trustees to serve in a traditional fiduciary role for the University, phasing out trustee roles for students, faculty and alumni over the next year.”
Many of the organizers feel that such an update was insensitive and ultimately strips students of their say in matters that directly affect them. “We want to see them meet our demands and we won’t stop until they (the administration) give the student body the authority to check them off the list,” added Vines.
The protest will not end until a new “housing plan” is proposed
The Live Movement’s final demand called for the president and chairman of the Board of Trustees to meet with Student Leadership including the Howard University Student Association (HUSA), Undergraduate Student Assembly (UGSA), Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), and the School and College Councils to outline their “Housing Plan” to protect all graduate and undergraduate students. An accompanying condition was that all results of the meeting be made transparent to the student body.
According to The Hilltop, President Frederick declined to divulge any information pertaining to the university’s housing partnership with Corvias, which finances, manages and maintains four residential facilities on the campus. However, Frederick partially agreed to the appeal, saying, “The Student Life Committee has a town hall planned for October 25 to discuss one of the issues — well several issues — but one of the issues about the board affiliates and Marie Johns is the chair of the committee. So, I will listen, and my goal is to answer any questions that you have.”
The protest site also serves as a resource for food for students without access to any on campus, as Blackburn, which houses a cafeteria and other food vendors, remains inaccessible. “Since administration is not going to protect and help us, we’re going to call upon the help of the community. That’s when The Live Movement started directing people to a central, trusted platform,” Vines said in reference to the designated protest grounds. The area remains afloat, in part, by grassroots organizations’ donations. Because of the community’s fellowship, students have been supplied with food, toiletries, blankets and other vital materials to help them sustain their demonstration.
Students have been struggling with homelessness since the beginning of the school year
While the university gave notice on their intention to return to in-person learning in June, there were still several complaints that certain classes were changed from virtual to in-person, or vice versa, as little as a week before the start of school, leaving both students and professors little time to establish housing. Students felt that there was a lack in communication about housing availability and hybrid learning expectations, causing an upset that would precede the Blackburn takeover.
“We were on hold with the [university] housing department for over an hour, some people reported up to two hours,” said senior political science student Erica England about her efforts to find housing solutions for some students through the university’s housing line. “When we finally did get through, I was directed to a website that I could’ve found on my own. When I expressed that [the listed] housing partners that didn’t have enough spaces to house all the students, I was told that I was going to have to find that on my own.”
England, who also serves as president of the Howard Chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America felt called to make a statement on the behalf of the homeless students, organizing what she called a “sit-out” demonstration at the beginning of the school year. On the edge of campus, for a total of 12 hours, she sat with other dissatisfied students with hopes to encourage the university to be more diligent in their solutions to no avail.
“There should have been something in place to help those students. Howard got a lot of funding this year and a lot of people don’t see the accountability for where it’s going. But we do keep seeing tuition costs rising,” she added.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Below, our gift guide highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds for anyone in need of a home refresh.
Take a look inside the Makers Studio presented by Walmart at REVOLT WORLD, a space where Black creators could hone in on their brand and see it come to life.
In this new episode of ‘Bet on Black,’ food and beverage take center stage as aspiring Black entrepreneurs from It’s Seasoned, Black Farmer Box, and Moors Brewing Co. present their business ideas to judges with mentorship from Melissa Butler. Watch here!
Fly Guy DC taps in with REVOLT WORLD attendees to learn what the Opportunity Center, presented by Walmart, means to them and their futures.
“REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy Rue counts down the top five moments from the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, including surprising wins, historic firsts, and dope performances. Sponsored by Amazon.
Walmart supports HBCU students and encourages them to be Black & Unlimited. Fly Guy DC talked to a few at REVOLT WORLD about how being an HBCU student has changed their lives.
In the season finale of “Bet on Black,” special guest judge Ray J joins as the finalists take the main stage to show they have what it takes to win the $200,000 grand prize; Melissa Butler and Eunique Jones Gibson mentor. Presented by Target.
REVOLT is continuing its impactful partnership with Walmart by teaming up to showcase Black creatives at HBCUs all-across America. The panel consisted of three experienced, accomplished Black HBCU alumni: Actor and media personality Terrence J, entertainment attorney John T. Rose, and actress and “REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy-Rue McCullough.
The health of a community can often be traced to the health of the environment that surrounds it. In Atlanta, a woman named Dr. Jaqueline Echols has dedicated her life to helping ensure that people in economically underserved communities have clean rivers – for better health and for the joy of outdoor recreational space.
Join Kennedy Rue on “REVOLT Black News Weekly” as she dives into the world of Black entertainment in 2023. In this episode, we welcome the iconic Ludacris, celebrated producer Will Packer, and renowned director Tim Story. Together, they explore the cultural shifts in Hollywood, emphasizing the importance of Black representation in holiday films. The discussion highlights ‘Dashing Through the Snow,’ a Christmas movie that celebrates Black joy and tackles deeper themes of faith and childhood trauma. Watch!
On this all-new episode of “On In 5,” multitalented Nigerian artist Pheelz opens up about waiting for his opportunity to fully express himself through music, his inspirations and emotions, and the musical icons he grew up admiring. Watch!
Tiffany Haddish on therapy, wild fan interactions & the upcoming 'Haunted Mansion' movie | 'The Jason Lee Show'
On this all-new episode of “The Jason Lee Show,” the one and only Tiffany Haddish sits for a must-watch conversation about wild interactions with fans, her new movie ‘Haunted Mansion,’ bringing her therapist on dates, and being present. Watch the hilarious interview here.
Kareem Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke & networking | 'The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels'
On this all-new episode of “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels,” the host and REVOLT CEO sits down with Kareem Cook. Throughout the introspective episode, Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke and being nervous to be in the South at the time, network vs. education, taking advantage of your opportunities, and connecting with Debbie Allen. Watch!
For this all-new episode of “On In 5,” singer-songwriter BNXN discusses his journey from IT to music, finding his voice and originality, linking up with Wizkid for their hits “Mood” and “Many Ways,” and what fans can expect from him this year — including a new album. Watch the full episode here!
In this exclusive interview, DDG opens up about his fashion inspiration, what drew him to girlfriend Halle Bailey, dealing with negative opinions about his relationship, and more. Read up!
The artist has remained remarkably consistent in her song lyrics about making money, telling off haters and feeling liberated since her debut.