Student Led Forum Offers Discussion on Racial Injustice


Emily Walsh

Dennis Draughn, Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Student Body President Emani Labon, and Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Liaison Damian Johnson presented on inequality at the open forum.

In response to Amir Locke’s death, the BSM student body president Emani Labon held an open forum in the BSM theater on February 10, 2022.

Amir Locke, 22, was fatally shot at an apartment complex. Locke was not listed as a suspect on the search warrant, nor was he a resident at the complex. His death comes almost two years after the death of George Floyd, which inspired a wave of protests and calls for action in Minnesota and the nation.

To help students cope with this tragedy, Labon wanted to offer a way for students to share their feelings and thoughts on the death. She also wanted to bring awareness to injustices in general. “I wanted to spread awareness on the Amir Locke murder that happened in Minneapolis, and I wanted students, especially black students, to be able to add about injustices…, and I wanted to spread awareness,” Labon said.

Originally, Labon considered doing a sit-in. At the last minute, it was changed to an open forum. “The reason for that change was because sit-ins, especially during the Civil Rights Movement [involved] a lot of intensity…I didn’t want to take away from their experiences and call it a sit-in because sit-in actually involved a lot of life threatening things,” Labon said.

The forum is important because it gives BSM students a platform to share their struggles and feel less alone. It also gives them a chance to inspire change and justice at school. “BSM has been a community that has been through a lot as far as racial injustices. There is still racial injustice that occurs at BSM, and there’s been not a lot accountability…As a student’ I’m going to take initiative and say ‘hey, let’s do these forums, let’s do these things where students can be able to advocate, experience, and talk about these experiences,’” Labon said.

The forum began with a presentation by Labon, Dennis Draughn (the Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging), and Damian Johnson (Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Liaison) about income disparities and segregation in Minneapolis. The presentation explained why the cycle of poverty stemming back from the Jim Crow era and Civil War locks many minorities out of generational wealth. Next, Labon and Draughn presented on police killings and brutality in America. This presentation included visual and statistics about the contrast between the way the police view themselves and the way they are viewed by the public. “I think it’s important to show you know, actual data, rather than go off just specifically someone’s thought process and their feelings but show some data so they can understand,” Draughn said.

After the presentation, Draughn passed around a microphone for students to share their own ideas. They posted a few prompts on the board, and students discussed Amir Locke’s death and the no-knock warrant policy. “The goal of the forum was to have students, because it was a student advocacy thing,” Labon said.

Officer Luke, with the Saint Louis Park police department, also shared his perspective. He helped students get a better understanding of how police officers make decisions and approach warrants. “[Officer Luke] also cares about the BSM Community… so he wanted to get a chance to at least share his perspective so you get a better understanding from his side as well,” Draughn said at the forum.