A Show of Unity

Members of the campus community showed support for Black Lives Matter
Photo of Muhammad "Moose" Mahmood

Our Black community is in danger. This isn’t breaking news, but it should be breaking hearts.

Muhammad “Moose” Mahmood ’22 was moved to act. The killings of unarmed Black people by police that ignited a nationwide movement and calls for reform led him to think of his own journey.

He found himself imagining if he were in the shoes of those who had been targeted. “What if I were Black? Any one of those encounters would have been the end of me,” Mahmood said. “Our Black community is in danger. This isn’t breaking news, but it should be breaking hearts.”

Mahmood was inspired to organize an on-campus demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter. Dubbed a “Unity Rally,” the event took place on the quad, with a diverse array of attendees standing six feet apart and wearing face coverings. It brought together students, faculty, staff, and administrators in a peaceful call for everyone to collectively do better.

“We want to be heard,” said Kyle Colon ’20, who served as master of ceremonies for the event. “We are tired of not being heard. Every day is another life than can be saved. We only move forward if we come together."

University administrators joined the call for action.

“All lives cannot matter unless Black Lives Matter,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Laura Bayless. “All lives cannot matter until trans lives matter. All lives cannot matter until LGBTQ lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Latinx lives matter. All lives cannot matter until people with disabilities’ lives matter.”

“Fitchburg State is committed to educational justice,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Alberto Cardelle, explaining the university’s pledge to help all students succeed. “It takes all of us to get this done.”

Athletic Director Matthew Burke saw many student-athletes gathered at the rally in support of Mahmood’s vision. “We’re all part of the same team,” Burke said. “It’s what we do next that will make all the difference. Go Falcons – one team forever.”

University Police Chief Michael J. Cloutier said the U.S. was founded on the principle that all men were created equal, yet there has been a devaluation of Black lives in our country. He also said it did not devalue others’ lives to pronounce that Black Lives Matter, including police officers.

“As the university’s Chief of Police, I pledge my support to our Black community, and also to those who took an oath to protect our way of life,” Cloutier said. “Our continuously intersecting lives will remain contentious, if we do not stop and take time to talk to one another.” 

This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of Contact magazine.