On Friday, December 5, approximately 100 SLA students participated in “die-in” at 11:43 am in the second floor ballroom. The students laid or sat on the ground for four and a half minutes to represent the four and a half hours that Michael Brown’s body was left on the street.
Seniors Ruby Anderson and Nomi Martin-Brouillette brought the event to SLA after the Philadelphia Student Union, which recently began a chapter at SLA, had the idea.
“On Thursday morning, Ruby texted me that Masterman and Central were having a die-in on Friday and she suggested that SLA do it too,” Nomi Martin-Brouillette said. “I thought it was a good idea too, and we set up a Facebook event for it.”
Many students agreed that the “die-in” was for a great cause and would raise awareness, but some were wary about the message that would be sent by the fact that black students were asked to lay down while white students were asked to only sit down.
“I support what the die-in represents,” non-protester Aaron Block said, “but I felt that the idea that we divide ourselves based on race with black students lying down and white students sitting down was not compatible with the message I wanted to send and the way I wanted to protest.”
Similarly, Junior Sean Morris was unhappy with the guidelines.
“I felt as though it greatly diminished the message they were trying to send,” he said. “It sends a message that this only happens to black people when police brutality, excessive force and prejudice from an authoritative force can really happen to anyone.” He cited the different instances of police brutality against non-African Americans, and said that he was uncertain about participating in the next protest due to what he thought was an ineffective strategy.
Senior Ruby Anderson, one of the organizers of this event at SLA, disagreed with the criticism of other students.
“We do not feel that it would be appropriate for non-black people to mimic dead black bodies,” she said, “so we asked for allies to sit as a way of recognizing their privilege.”
Students from SLA, Masterman and Central had die-ins on the same day, but that wasn’t the end of student-organized die-ins, as they are planning a larger citywide die-in.
“We define violence as power that hurts one’s chances of survival,” the Facebook event page reads. “We see this type of violence interpersonally, in thousands of instances of police brutality, and institutionally, in a school district that systematically denies young people of color the resources that we need to succeed.”
This Thursday, December 17, at 4:30pm at the School District Building there is a mass Student Die-In, which already has lots of popularity on the Facebook page. It is unclear whether or not all students will be laying down or if only black students will be.
The Facebook event page ends with a powerful charge: “We have nothing to lose but our chains!”