SF State students lead protest in support of Black Lives Matter

Group of protesters holding signs in support of Black Lives Matter.

Protesters during the I.E. March for Justice demonstration in Upland, Calif. (Photo by Darleine Heitman)

Demonstration in Southern California honoring Ahmaud Arbery draws hundreds

In 1968, San Francisco State University activists organized the longest student-led campus strike in U.S. history to demand curricula that would represent people of color. The next year, their demands were met when the University formed its College of Ethnic Studies — the first of its kind in the U.S.

More than 50 years later, the strikers and their legacy continue to shape the University’s identity. Like their predecessors, today’s San Francisco State students refuse to sit on the sidelines with many taking an active part in recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations.

Earlier this summer, Africana Studies students Kamarya Singh, Krsna Singh and Tiara Jones of SF State led a protest in Upland, a city in Southern California’s Inland Empire (I.E.), in recognition of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old African American man who was fatally shot in Georgia during a neighborhood jog. The students organized the protest as a way to not only show support for BLM and Arbery but to also bring awareness to challenges in their own communities.

“We definitely felt like there was a high demand for a change that we needed to see, especially with certain events that have been going on for many years now that have been affecting Black and Brown communities,” said Kamarya Singh, an SF State senior.

Organized in just three days, the I.E. March for Justice protest drew about 500 attendees — possibly many more because paper wristbands to track attendance ran out. Singh and fellow student organizers obtained a city permit for the two-mile march, raised funds, bought medical supplies, created care packages that included water and snacks, promoted the demonstration, printed maps of the protest route and much more. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the students also reminded attendees to wear face coverings and remain at least six feet from each other.

The protest received widespread community support. Through their outreach efforts, the organizers raised more than $1,500 to help with event expenses. An area traffic company also donated thousands of dollars worth of cones, stop signs, vests and other traffic control equipment for the protest, Singh said.

The support didn’t stop there. Members of numerous Black-led organizations, including Black Student Unions from high schools and universities, labor unions, religious groups and more, joined the march. The Upland mayor and other city officials also expressed deep appreciation for the students’ efforts. In fact, Singh met the Upland chief of police during the protest, who thanked her for the demonstration. “[He] spoke to me personally [and] told me that he respected what we were doing and supported it and wanted to help us make it a successful march,” she said. Seeing her community come together — much like the SF State strikers banded together in 1968 — made Singh feel moved, inspired and part of something special. 

“Being a part of the Africana Studies department of the College of Ethnic Studies — it’s something that I myself take pride in knowing the history behind how that was created,” she said. “We already come from a history of trying to make a difference and actually being successful at that.”

Other student organizers: Darren Hall of San Diego State University, Monique Yusuff of Cal Poly Pomona, Kam Martin of Howard University, Josh Mukendi of Mt. San Antonio College and Michaela Tyus of University of California, San Diego.