The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been growing worldwide since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota during the coronavirus (COVID–19) pandemic.
Anaiis Azcona, a senior family science and human development major and the vice president of Lambda Tau Omega Sorority Inc. (Genesis Alpha Chapter) led a protest on Thursday, May 6, with her sorority sisters by her side. They wanted to show their support for the BLM movement and Black lives that have been lost over recent years, including the recent deaths of Daunte Wright and Mikayla Miller.
Other Greek organizations (Omega Phi Chi, Sigma Lambda Beta and Lambda Upsilon Lambda) as well as students from Montclair State University crowded the Student Center quad that afternoon as they listened to Azcona speak.
“Our voices need to be heard and that’s why we’re here today,” Azcona said. “We want to remember them [Daunte Wright and Mikayla Miller] here on this campus by saying their name, sharing their story and we ask the next time you have a conversation that you mention their name.”
Lambda Tau Omega Sorority Inc. was founded in 1988 at Montclair State. It is a multicultural Greek organization that focuses on women empowerment and takes the initiative to shed light on injustice. Azcona and her sorority sisters have been supporting the BLM movement since last summer.
“Our sisters from Rowan University, our sisters from Seton Hall University, William Paterson [University], Trinity College come together [to protest],” Azcona said. “We were even asked by other organizations to attend [protests] in Hoboken, Newark and other communities as well.”
Azcona explained that uplifting her Black sisters also inspires her to continue to lead protests for the BLM movement.
The sorority grows each semester with Black women and Azcona explained she empathizes with the fact that it takes an emotional toll on them. As the crowd shouted Daunte Wright’s name, Azcona recalled having to comfort Analise Mensah, a junior medical humanities major and one of the sorority’s newest sisters, as she was hiding tears at the protest.
Mensah explained she lost some friends because they are not allies of the BLM movement and thinks a lot of people are not educating themselves on this social issue.
“During that time I’ve lost a lot of friends,” Mensah said. “I realize that not a lot of people are educating themselves or trying to understand what is happening to us. The recent killings of innocent Black people make me view the world a little differently.”
Valerie Chica, former president of Lambda Tau Omega Sorority Inc. (Genesis Alpha Chapter) and alumna of Montclair State, believes it is important for injustice in the United States to be resolved.
“It’s important for justice to be served for the stories that aren’t filmed either,” Chica said. “I’ve always had great opportunities so I try as hard as I can to put myself in their shoes and educate myself and listen. I hope people would try to understand and push through their comfortable state of mind.”
Azcona, who is of Dominican descent, explains how colorism is prevalent in the Dominican Republic and how it caused her to hide but also spark immense change.
“I’m also Dominican and there’s a lot of colorism in my country so not only did the Black Lives Matter [movement] start a conversation within my sisterhood but it started a conversation within my family,” Azcona said. “I actually went to these protests behind my mother’s back but [she] supported and understood me regardless and it was a beautiful moment for us.”
When Azcona graduates, she plans on helping people in underserved communities so they can have access to opportunities as well.
“I plan to guide the community by working with first-generation minority students because I myself am a first-generation student,” Azcona said. “I want to either create a program or work in a program that helps minority students.”
At the end of the protest, people took a knee for three minutes in silence in remembrance of Daunte Wright, Mikayla Miller and other Black people who have died.