‘We won’t be silenced’: Despite controversy, college renews Trayvon Martin award for second year

Campus Reform Reporter

  • Award will continue despite some "very negative" reaction at Providence College last year.
  • Will honor "victims of racism and other forms of oppression in the United States."
  • The Providence College Black Studies program has decided to continue the Trayvon Martin Award for Social Justice for a second year.

    In a campus-wide email Tuesday, Dr. Julia Jordan-Zachery, the program’s director, said that some at the college had reacted “in a very negative manner” to the award last year; however, she vowed that “we won't be silenced in recognizing those who work for social justice at Providence College, in the community or on a global level.”

    “[S]ome people are not consciously aware of what they’re doing but they’re responding to narratives around race." - Dr. Jordan-Zachery   

    According to a copy of the email obtained by Campus Reform, the award was established to honor “victims of racism and other forms of oppression in the United States,” and the two recipients must either be a junior, senior, or a member of the faculty or staff “who has worked vigorously to positively affect the racial climate in our community."

    The trial of George Zimmerman, who shot Martin, was still ongoing at the time of the award’s creation.

    Though Dr. Jordan-Zachery did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication, she told Campus Reform last year that “If we place his [Zimmerman’s] behavior in context a lot of these times these responses are racially motivated.”

    “[S]ome people are not consciously aware of what they’re doing but they’re responding to narratives around race....That then leads them to behave in a particular way. So while I can’t speak explicitly for Zimmerman I would guess that this was racially motivated,” she said.

    Nominees must have “demonstrated commitment to building community, across race and other forms of difference, on campus and the larger community,” “leadership among his/her peers in challenging and eliminating racism an [sic] empowering others to seek social justice,” and “worked on the issue of ending racism.”

    Jordan-Zachery notes that the requirements are “flexible and open to interpretation,” and may include political activism or artistic expression of minority experience. Though local work is preferred, “the award committee will take into account additional work done outside Rhode Island or even globally.”

    Award recipients will be showcased in Heritage, the college's Black Studies newsletter, and will also receive recognition at an awards ceremony in the spring.

    Nominations are due by March 17.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter @SteveLarson