Chas Moore

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

In the midst of official reports indicating an absence of bleach in the balloon attack of government senior Bryan Davis, the Black Student Alliance organized a rally at the West Mall on Tuesday afternoon to plan for further activism and to oppose a climate of intimidation perceived by minority students at UT.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said Davis’ clothing and balloon fragments collected at the scene on the Aug. 22 incident were sent to an independent forensic lab for further testing. 

“The lab has indicated that through their visual, microscopic and spectroscopy tests, all samples of clothing — shirt, shorts and socks — as well as submitted balloon fragments show no indication of bleach or other contaminant,” UTPD officials said in a statement. 

At the rally, students and staff voiced their dissatisfaction with the University’s handling of reported balloon attacks against minorities in the West Campus area. Speakers at the rally said the ensuing controversy — whether bleach was in fact used in the balloons — glosses over an overarching safety and civil issue.

Davis said despite the reports that bleach was not used in his attack, student concern over the issue is still very much alive.

“These targetings and attacks, as I’m sure all of you know, won’t stop until the University more seriously considers them to be an issue that isn’t going away until a proper solution is found,” Davis said.

Chas Moore, a former student who spoke at the rally, said he does not think every balloon attack in West Campus that involved a minority student is necessarily racially motivated. But Moore did say such attacks will not be taken lightly by minority students. 

“If [my racial demographic] makes up only 3 to 4 percent of the student population on this campus, and I’m getting balloons tossed at me from elevated levels in West Campus, I am going to internalize and think about those incidents in a different way than my non-colored constituents,” Moore said. 

Eduardo Belalcazar, an international relations and global studies junior, who is the latest victim to speak out against the attacks, shared his story at the rally. Belalcazar said he has not heard from UTPD regarding his investigation.

English professor Snehal Shingavi said the “boys will be boys” narrative used to justify or dismiss the balloon attacks evades what he considers some of the worst behavior on campus.

“It’s irresponsible to cite prankish behavior as an excuse for what is clearly a climate of intimidation,” Shingavi said. “The fact that it happens to sorority women more is not an excuse. It’s actually disgusting that sexism is being used as an apology to forgive racism.”

In response to the incidents, Reva Davis, African and African diaspora studies senior and president of BSA, announced that the group will be starting a letter-writing campaign to further voice student sentiments and the perceived racial tension on campus. Reva said the BSA will draft letters and send them to city and University officials. 

“It’s time for us to initiate change,” Reva said. “If people knew more about the demographics on color, they would empathize with the way these attacks are perceived. Every victim that has come forward has been a student of color. We need to cater to our reality.”

Former UT student Chas Moore pauses while voicing his anger during the “Walk to West Campus” protest on the corner of 26th and Rio Grande Streets Tuesday afternoon. Moore organized the protest to urge the University to take more action in response to several reported incidents of bleach balloons being thrown at students of color.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

More than 100 members of the UT community marched through the streets of West Campus Tuesday evening, chanting their concerns about recently reported incidents of bias in the area.

In a march titled “Walk to West Campus: Standing in Solidarity Against Racism & Hate,” members of the UT community addressed several reported incidents including several students of color being hit with bleach-filled water balloons, the use of racial slurs and insensitive ethnic-themed parties hosted by registered student organizations. The march was organized by former UT student Chas Moore, along with students from both UT and Huston-Tillotson University. Moore said he organized the march to send a message to the UT administration and other relevant authorities that discrimination is still a major, systemic issue at UT.

“This is 2012, and I refuse to go back in time,” Moore said. “All we want is the University to take more of a firm stance to these kind of things.”

The march began at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on the East Mall and continued through UT’s campus and the West Campus area, stopping at the Barbara Jordan statue on campus and at the 26 West apartment complex, where students have reported three incidents of bleach balloon attacks. At the stops, students who reported being victims of bleach balloon attacks spoke about their experiences. The march ended at Burdine Hall, where a panel was being held on the upcoming Supreme Court case, Fisher v. University of Texas, in which the constitutionality of UT’s use of affirmative action in its admission policy is being questioned.

Chants used include: “No more violence, no more silence,” “Don’t you hate, don’t you fear, people of color are welcome here” and “Take the Powers, out of the towers.”

Moore said he was very happy with the turnout for the march, and he hopes it will show the University’s administration that there is still systemic bias in the UT community.

Gregory Vincent, vice president for community and diversity engagement, addressed the issue of discrimination at UT in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t believe this is a systemic issue. I think we have a diverse campus,” Vincent said. “President Powers has made diversity one of his four strategic priorities, and I believe that diversity has strengthened the learning environment for our students.”

Some students at the conference were displeased with his response.

Ethnic studies junior Jamilah Beene said she cannot understand why the University does not see discrimination as a more widespread issue at UT.

“Everywhere we go there’s racism,” she said. “The fact that these four African-American students have made these reports, the fact that these fiesta parties are going on.”

APD said Tuesday they received four reports on Monday of students saying balloons had been thrown at them in West Campus. Two of the incidents happened at the 2500 block on Pearl, one at West 26 and Nueces and another at 2552 Guadalupe Street. The incidents happened between last June and a few weeks ago.

UTPD tracked these incidents down via Facebook postings.

An employee of the 26 West apartment complex, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it could affect their employment, said liquid-filled balloon attacks are a common occurrence at the complex and other complexes in the area.

One marcher, psychology senior Zachary Moore, wore a homemade stockade throughout the march to express his disgust with the UT administration’s recent responses to reports of bias in its own community.

“The stockade is how I feel,” he said. “I feel constrained by racism in my neighborhood.”

Social work senior Mandy Stein broke out in tears while speaking in front of the 26 West apartment complex along the march as she asked the marchers not to judge everyone based on the actions of some people.

“From the bottom of my heart, whoever did it, I am sorry,” she said. “Please don’t dismiss everybody, because there are people out there who care and who want to help.”

Stein and undeclared freshman Kiersten Melvin said they have heard about the bleach balloons being used throughout their time at UT and they hope these efforts will put an end to the incidents. 

“It literally eats me to my very core,” Stein said, referring to bleach balloon attacks.

Printed on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 as: March urges action

Correction: This story has been updated to show that APD and UTPD received the four reports Monday night, and not in August.

Former UT Student Chas Moore organized “Walk to West Campus: Standing in Solidarity Against Racism and Hate,” a march that will take place Tuesday evening. Moore planned the march in hopes that it will bring awareness to incidents of reported bias and generate action from relevant officials.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Students will march through the streets of West Campus on Tuesday night to send the message that they will not stand for bias in the UT community any longer.

Former UT student Chas Moore organized the march, “Walk to West Campus: Standing in Solidarity Against Racism and Hate,” in conjunction with students from UT and Huston-Tillotson University as a response to recently reported incidents of bias in the area. Those incidents include several reports of students being attacked with bleach-filled water balloons in order to “white-wash” them as students of color, racial slurs being used in the West Campus area and ethnic-themed parties being thrown in an insensitive manner. Moore said he hopes the march will publicly shed light on these incidents and prompt members of the UT community to realize that bias is still a major issue at UT in 2012.

“We are not going to sit back and let things like this happen,” Moore said, referring to the recently reported incidents of bias. 

Moore said he planned the march because he feels he has not seen a serious enough response from relevant officials in dealing with reported incidents of bias at UT. He said he wants to show them how widespread this issue is so they will be more inclined to take action when incidents of bias are reported.

“We just want the University to seem like they care about what happens to students of color,” Moore said.

Moore said one example of authorities failing to take an appropriate response to a reported incident was when anthropology sophomore Taylor Carr had a bleach-filled water balloon thrown at her car last month.

Carr said her car was struck with the balloon around 2:30 a.m. near the 26 West apartment complex, formerly known as Jefferson 26, located at the corner of West 26th Street and Rio Grande Street.

Carr said she immediately got out of her car and ran to a nearby Austin Police Department officer to inform him of the attack.

“He asked if there was any damage, and I said ‘no,’ so he refused to take any action in response to the attack,” Carr said.

Carr was unable to provide the name of the officer she spoke to, and APD was unable to find a report of the incident on file, although APD did find a report of a water balloon being thrown at a car in the same area at roughly the same time. APD said they were unable to identify the assailant in that case, and they believe the balloon was filled with water, not bleach, in that incident.

Robert Dahlstrom, University of Texas Police Department Chief, said his department, which operates separately from the City of Austin Police Department, heard about the bleach-ballon incidents recently. He said UTPD has taken measures to investigate the attacks, including reaching out to one of the students who said he was attacked with a bleach-filled balloon.

Dahlstrom said his department has been limited in its investigative efforts, however, because these attacks were not reported to UTPD, leaving them with little information to try and investigate the attacks.

“We’re very interested in helping students anywhere work through any type of case and this one no more or no less so than any other case,” he said. “We just need to know the facts so we can start working with the students.”

Dahlstrom said he urges students to report any illegal activity to his department so that it can be dealt with as effectively as possible and prevented from happening to others.

Moore, the event’s organizer, said he is happy that UTPD is looking into the incidents and hopes to see the same serious response to reports of bias from other relevant authorities, such as UT’s administration and APD, in the future.

Students participating in the march will meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue located on the East Mall near West 21st Street and Speedway.

Printed on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 as: Students plan march against bias

Students Cameron Woods, Marzavia Crayton, Montrail Neal and Jeremy hills play dominoes in the Malcolm X Lounge Thursday.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

 

Editor’s note: This story is the third in a series exploring race, racism and diversity on the UT campus.

Walk into the Malcolm X Lounge any given day to find a heated discussion, a study session, an organizational meeting or a prayer group.

Some say a peek between the alabaster blinds lining the room provides a look at the makeup of University’s black community.

“I would say it’s ‘our space’ because we can talk about what we want to talk about,” said former UT student Chas Moore, who visits the lounge for at least two to three hours each week. “We can have events in there, play dominos or cards — it’s the black spot on campus.”

At UT there are many organizations centered on cultural interests, Moore said, and the X Lounge is the place where black students can come and be around people from the black community. People who identify as black are the ones who most frequent the lounge, Moore said, and those who do not will often stare at the lounge but not come in.

The lounge first opened in 1995 on the ground floor of the Jester Center after black students pushed to create an area for their community on campus after the University closed their unofficial meeting space. Black students petitioned former UT President Robert Berdahl for a new area where black students could gather and were approved for the space. Today, the X Lounge is run entirely by students and provides a space for organizations to hold meetings and events, student study sessions and storage, among others. It is open for reservation by all students.

Choquette Hamilton, associate director for development of African-American diaspora studies, said the lounge was always intended to be an area for the black community but is open to all. Hamilton said there have been many points in time where black students did not feel safe on campus, both physically and in terms of respect for their culture.

“If you’re a black student and you’re in a classroom filled with people who don’t look like you and may possibly say things that are offensive, it’s frustrating going through that day in and day out,” Hamilton said. “[In the X Lounge] people don’t have to worry about dealing with those things because the people that hang out in that space relate to your experiences.”

Hamilton said even today many black students do not feel welcome in all parts of campus, and while there are often many organizations tabling on West Mall, it is rare to see black organizations there. She also said some black students do not feel welcome in the South Mall, which contains statues of former U.S. leaders known for spreading racist ideas.

Carissa Kelley, Student Events Center president, said she does not go to the lounge much and spends most of her time in the Texas Union. She said most black students have gone to the lounge at least once and those who do not go are probably disconnected from the black community. Kelley said if people are absent for a while, many in the lounge will begin asking questions.

“People expect for all black organizations on campus to table there, put their fliers there and put their face there because that is how you show you’re involved in the community,” Kelley said. “If you’re not there, you’re not [involved].”

Ethnic studies sophomore Jarius Sowells said he visits the X Lounge about three times a day for 30 to 40 minutes at a time. Sowells agreed with Moore that there is a stereotype that only black students can go into the X Lounge. Sowells said the majority of non-black people that go in the lounge do so to use the microwave and often do not interact with black students there. He said there is often conversation in the lounge on how to break down that stereotype, comparing it to the assumption that only white people go to the Roundup philanthrophy event.

“The X Lounge situation is indeed the counter opposite to the Roundup situation,” Sowells said. “I was encouraged by my black brothers not to go [to Roundup], but I went because I wanted to experience it for myself.”

Brenda Burt, a UT diversity and community engagement officer, said she has worked as an adviser for students who frequent the X Lounge since it officially opened. Her office is in the John Warfield Center for African and African American Studies located above the lounge on the second floor.

“If I want to know what the hot topics are I will just go in there,” Burt said, adding that recent topics have included the Trayvon Martin case and a controversial Daily Texan editorial cartoon about the shooting. “That’s their space and it’s not for an adult to be in there. There are times they’ll come and get me if they want my input.”

Burt said if a student who is not black tried to visit the lounge, no one would stop them, and that she recommends the lounge to new black students.

Mauricio De Leon, a human development and family sciences junior, said he identifies as Latino and first went into the X Lounge during summer orientation. At the time, he said the lounge was filled with Latinos and he did not realize the lounge was normally frequented by black students. De Leon said he disagrees with the notion that only black people go into the X Lounge and has seen people from other races visit.

“I don’t think there are racial barriers,” said De Leon, who visits the lounge at least once a week. “It’s just people choose not to go in there. Everyone is welcome to go in and people are welcoming when you go, it’s just whether they want to or not.” 

Printed on Friday, April 27, 2012 as: Malcolm X Lounge offers safe haven to students of all races

Austin Center for Peace and Justice president Rudolph Williams speaks to students about institutionalized racism in Parlin Hall Wednesday evening. Williams said racism in institutions such as media and education, both locally and nationally, creates a larger racist mindset that is difficult to break.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

A Wednesday evening open forum brought students together to discuss how racism permeates modern institutions on local and national levels.

UT’s branch of the International Socialist Organization hosted a public talk titled “Systemic Racism: the Role of Institutions and Race” that included three guest speakers and an open discussion on the topic of modern racism in current institutions such as media, government and education. Speakers included government senior and International Socialist Organization member Michelle Uche, finance junior Chas Moore and Rudolph Williams, Austin Center for Peace and Justice president.

Nearly 40 students attended to listen and participate in the discussion at Parlin Hall.

International Socialist Organization member Jonathon Orta said the talk was held as response to several local issues surrounding race, including the high rates of violence by the Austin Police Department against unarmed black and Hispanic suspects.

“As a socialist, there are problems everywhere,” Orta said. “Especially after the Trayvon Martin [cartoon] in The Daily Texan, there’s a lot of buzz but there’s not a whole lot actually going on. People are excited and wanting to run and wanting to do stuff but they don’t know how.”

Williams said racism in institutions such as media and education, both locally and nationally, creates a larger racist mindset that is difficult to break.

“Institutionalized racism, much like racial profiling, is a perception, an attitude and a lingering picture of what people think other people are,” Williams said. “Just because we live in this particular environment does not mean we can’t change it.”

Moore said pop culture’s portrayal of black American males is one major factor that affects the everyday lives of members of the black community.

“If you didn’t know me and you watch TV, you probably would think three things of me,” Moore said, “Either I can play a physical sport really well, or I can dance and entertain and make you laugh or that I’m really violent. Why am I portrayed in only one way? Why can’t I be known for writing books and giving prophetic speeches?”

The lack of coverage in the media surrounding issues such as crimes against black Americans contributes further to a negative stereotype, Moore said.

“Trayvon Martin was a rare incident because black people get killed every day by non-blacks, but it doesn’t get circulated in the media that way,” Moore said.

Uche said incarceration rates within the United States point to severely racist undertones in the criminal justice system on a national level. This disproportionate amount of incarceration indicates an inherently racist system that keeps black Americans in a second-class status, she said.

Public discussions, such as the one held last night, allow for free debate and are vital for creating action within a community, Orta said.

“People are interested,” Orta said. “People are upset, and people are realizing that these things aren’t isolated. These things are systematic. This is a good gauge to see where people are at, and you start the dialogue on how to connect these issues.”

Printed on Thursday, April 26, 2012 as: Institutional racism, negative stereotyping topics in open forum

Dylan Hill, 12, marches down South Congress Avenue Tuesday afternoon during a rally held to protest the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin last month.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Echoing national outcry surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin, more than 1,000 Austinites of different races and creeds marched down Congress Avenue to protest what they described as continuing institutional racism Tuesday evening.

Beginning at 5 p.m,, organizers and Austinites began to congregate before the Texas Capitol gates to rally against the Feb. 26 killing. As the crowd began to grow larger to include local politicians and UT groups including the Black Student Alliance and University Democrats, the initially silent protesters began to wave their signs and gather in a circle to sing “We Shall Overcome.”

A 17-year-old African-American, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla., while walking through a gated community to his father’s fiance’s home, allegedly by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman.

Following the example of other rallies across the nation calling for Zimmerman’s arrest and awareness about racial tensions in the United States, Tuesday’s rally was created to raise awareness about institutional racism and senseless suspicion, said organizer James Nortey.

Nortey created the Facebook group for the event, along with former Texas House member Glen Maxey and three others.

“I think this resonates particularly in Austin, with its history of minority shootings,” Nortey said. “People are shocked this is still happening when it has been going on for decades. We need to be proactive about making sure this doesn’t happen to a 17 year old in Austin.”

Though Martin was unarmed, Zimmerman described Martin as suspicious and claimed the killing was in self-defense.

Because of Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law, Zimmerman was not taken into custody and nationwide clamor for his arrest ensued after tensions grew online through Facebook and Twitter. Zimmerman has not yet been charged with a crime, although state and federal investigations are ongoing.

According to a pamphlet from the Austin Center for Peace and Justice distributed at the rally, there have been 11 killings of unarmed African-Americans and Hipsanics in Austin since 1980. The most recent is the shooting of Byron Carter last year by the Austin Police Department, after the on-duty officer claimed his partner’s life was in danger.

Following the lead of a group of rally members and Chas Moore, a former UT student and participant in the rally, a large number of the protestors began to march down Congress Avenue to City Hall, chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police.”

“The fight for racial equality is continuing,” Moore said. “It’s not just a black, white thing anymore. It’s minorities fighting against the judicial and economic system. How long are we going to sit here and take this injustice?”

Over a hundred members of the UT BSA were present at the rally and march, said BSA secretary Reva Davis.

“We are here to support Trayvon Martin and his family,” Davis said. “This march is confirmation for what we want, but this is not enough at all. This is just the start of something that we hope will grow bigger.”

Other marchers included Austinite and UT alumnus Rudy Malveaux, who said that the killing of an African-American teenager in 2012 is absurd.

“We’ve gotten desensitized toward violence against black males to the point where boys can be killed for absolutely nothing,” Malveaux said. “The people in this crowd aren’t just black, they’re Americans. This is American family, and we can’t kill the kids in the family.”

Many protesters also held copies of the Daily Texan after assistant English professor Snehal Shingavi distributed them to the rally.

Shingavi said an editorial cartoon published in Tuesday’s Daily Texan was racist and inappropriate, and asked for protesters to support a petition to “censure Stephanie Eisner,” the cartoonist who drew the illustration in question, and “open The Daily Texan to staff and students to hold discussions about portraying racism.”

BSA member Ken Nwankwo said many African-American students at UT and members of the rally were disappointed by the cartoon, which depicts a mother reading to her child a statement about a “white man killing an innocent, handsome colored boy.”

“Clearly the cartoon is satire in the most wrong point, but it had to come out today on the rally for Trayvon Martin?” Nwankwo said. “There’s a lot in here in terms of rhetoric and syntax that’s incorrect. The cartoon downplays the whole issue.”

Ending their march at city hall, protesters listened attentively to the speakers’ messages.

“What we did was something they say doesn’t work anymore,” Moore said. “We are fighting for the rights of everyone, and we have to pressure the justice system and the education system to make it work. Don’t just go home and think the battle is over.” 

Editor's note: (03/28/12 at 9:22 a.m.) changed "censor" to "censure."

Printed on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 as: Protesters rally against racism