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Stomping the Yard

Black Male in A Constant State of Fear

Calling all college students!  Our new weekly column, Stomping the Yard, aims to help undergrads excel in their studies and social lives.  JETmag.com’s team of experts will show you how to get it done from the day you move into the dorms to the minute you step off campus for that first job. Submit questions and feedback for The Yard via digitalpitches@ebony.com.

Presenting authentic student voices in this blog is always a priority and a commitment for me.  And, in the aftermath of the recent grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Gardner cases, I thought it would be timely and critical to share the reaction of a young African-American male college student.  This week, I’m proud to share the thoughts of Yaw Keese, a sophomore at the University of Illinois, Springfield.

yaw keese

As a Black male college student, I fear the police WHENEVER I am approached by them, no matter the race or ethnicity that the officer may be. Personal experiences with law enforcement has helped justify my fearful reactions. After my first year away at college, I returned home to spend the summer working in Chicago. During this past summer, I was pulled over by the police at least twice while driving alone, and four times driving with a group of friends in the car. It seems that the media coverage about the high levels of violence with youth in Chicago is used as reason to account for excessive profiling of young Black men such as myself. But I’m tired of being targeted and questioned relentlessly primarily because of the color of my skin with no real rationale to justify this harassment.

Unfortunately, the findings in the cases of Michael Brown and the Eric Gardner incidents did not surprise me one bit, because police brutality and its over occurrence with Black males is REAL. It seems the authority role taken by many police officers gets abused. And, they too like normal citizens, fall victim to allowing their anger and emotions to overcome their judgment and push them into crossing the line of violating innocent citizens and demonstrating behavior that seems to be clear misconduct on their part. And, as a student, I’ve been studying how it seems that when it comes to police brutality in the Black community, that history is repeating itself, especially when I read the poet June Jordan’s 1974 piece entitled “Poem About Police Violence” about a Black man killed while in police custody.

Feeling frustrated the night the results were released in Ferguson, I called one of my mentors to talk about how I felt about the injustice of the situation, and also to start thinking about what we could do. My mentor recommended that I take the first step and actually voice my opinion and thoughts about these decisions as a young Black male who’s actively pursuing a college degree, despite the odds. We all saw the various reactions of releasing anger and frustrations in the forming of looting, the protests across the country, social media movements, and professional athletes have also been making statements.  But, I want to think from my perspective and present some other ideas of how college students, such as myself, can play a role in advocating to make sure this kind of injustice ends.

Here are a few ideas about how we can help:

1. Hold seminars on campuses about how to deal with traffic stops and interacting with police: I’m a member of a fraternity and several student organizations on my campus. I think that it’s really important to start having forums where students get to have dialogue with campus and local police officers to voice their concerns, and receive tips about how to safely engage with the police, and protect their rights.

2. Make an impact during your spring break:  Spring break can be more than just a vacation.  It can be an opportunity to impact youth! Find ways to go out to schools in African-American communities and provide mentoring visits to youth that include giving them advice about the importance of education, setting goals, choosing college, combatting and avoiding violence.  Consider inviting involved police officers with you on these school visits to provide school kids with tips about how to safely engage with the police, and protect their rights.  Perhaps this can assist with establishing more trusting relationships with police in our communities

3. Share what you’re doing on your campus: Share below some ideas, pictures, and videos of what you are doing on your college campus and community to help create some change.

About Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program, a University of Chicago adopted community program, that  has served more than 1000+ girls, aged seven to 17 years old, to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 400+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blog and on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.