Howard University sold a dream to many future Bison. They promised parents they could educate this generation’s next Angela Davis, Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes. What they did not disclose were the issues the university has had for decades, including allegations of infestations and mold throughout the dorms of the university. This recently led to the widely-publicized protests that went on for weeks.
On October 12, The Live Movement began the demonstration known as the #BlackburnTakover, which lasted for 34 days. During this time, students showed first hand accounts of their living conditions. The Live Movement and Young Democratic Socialist of America invited President Fredrick to other town halls to discuss steps to improve the conditions. However, the president did not show and allegedly declined to speak with a large number of students. The efforts were not in vain though.
On Monday, November 15, the Live Movement, the group of young people who organized the protests, posted on their twitter that the Blackburn Takeover was a success, effectively ending the building’s occupation. The organization shared a picture of protesters signing the legal agreement between the administration and the protesters.
According to Tyler Davis, a freshman journalism major at the university, the student protesters negotiated with the president for 20 days. During this time students refused to leave the Blackburn Center. For many of the protesters, they felt more safe sleeping in tents and inside of the multipurpose center than in their dorms. Students slept outside long enough to experience warm and cold weather.
“I feel rejoiced that we are finally making a step in making progress,” Davis said. While they can’t exactly state concrete details about the legal agreement, Davis does want to share that they are still on track to graduate for 2025. Other protesters share the same sentiments regarding the 4th demand of legal and academic immunity.
Since the demonstration started, Howard University has appeared to act on the accusations of mold-infested dorms. Cleaning staff have been working to deep clean each room in every residence building. Senior political science major Erica England says, “I don’t think these steps would have been taken if it wasn’t for [the takeover].”
This was not the first protest that Howard University students have conducted on housing concerns, as alumni can recall protesting as far back as 1989. However, students are confident that this time the university will stick to their word.
England thinks the university reacts when their reputation is in danger. Before the faculty protest on Nov. 5th, she says President Fredrick did more demanding they leave the Blackburn Center than negotiating the terms. It wasn’t until the faculty rally that she thinks the university considered negotiating terms. Since then, the university has made strides to better not only student dorms, but university buildings around campus as well.
While things have been looking up for the university, there is still work to be done.
In the president’s statement posted to Howard University’s instagram, he describes the takeover as, “a negative effect”. However, student protesters would like to reiterate that the demonstration was done out of love for the university. England expresses, “ there’s a narrative that [we] did this out of hate for the university. But we did this out of love for Howard.” When asked if she would do this again, she replied “yes” with no hesitation.
Howard University remains the home for many Black scholars. Even with its faults, students would choose Howard University again. Not because of the problems, but because of the culture, faculty and students that make up “the mecca”. While some issues can not be fixed overnight, the hope is that the #BlackburnTakeover will better the experience for the Bison after us.