Upon the start of the fall semester at the University of Kentucky, students were greeted by makeshift signs placed in various locations around campus. These signs told the stories of Black students at UK and their experiences being mistreated by racist peers.
The signs were made and hung up by a campus organization called "Black at UKY," whose Instagram bio reads "Sharing experiences of the marginalized community @universityofky. Uplifting voices until they have to listen". And that's just what Black at UKY does: the organization shared photos on their Instagram stories of the signs in their locations, with quotes from students at UK.
One sign hung from the Rose Street Garage that shared the story of a Black student who changed her major because of the racist peers and staff surrounding her. This story was introduced to the @blackatuk Instagram account back in early July, and it read, "Someone within the voice section I sung in said I sing 'really good for a black girl.' I laughed it off because I didn't know how to respond at the time. At that point, I felt really uncomfortable in the class already due to other things that have occurred. It wasn't until I walked out of class that day when I heard the same girl say 'Yeah that n*gger thinks she can sing.' I changed my major that day."
The same student goes on to talk about how the Black Voices Gospel Choir isn't recognized as an official UK choir though it was established in 1970, as well as mentioning racist remarks made by a professor within the music department.
A sign placed at the Gatton Student Center read, "I was called a n*gger multiple X's by people in my fraternity. Whenever I brought it up, I was laughed at and called a 'half-blood.'"
A sign at the Limestone Garage told the story of a student who was walking from Raising Cane's to Jewell Hall whenever a group of students in a white car drove by, calling the student a n*gger repeatedly. This student's story had also been posted on Black at UKY's Instagram account previously, in which the student followed up by saying, "It was humiliating and terrifying to see all the people on the street just stand there and do nothing and say nothing. It really questioned my sense of belonging at UK."
(The signs did not have the N-word censored for obvious effect, but I blurred it in the above photo and censored it in the quotes out of respect for the Black community.)
The organization even placed a sign in front of President Eli Capilouto's house in the middle of campus that read, "President Capilouto, time to listen."
The signs have since been taken down by the University of Kentucky.
These signs showcase only a few of the many stories on Black at UKY's Instagram account, only a fraction of the many that marginalized students face every day on campus.
Black at UKY consistently communicates with the university to move toward a more diverse, tolerant, and caring community, and frequently shares press releases with updates on situations at hand. However, progress has been slow as UK claims to adopt an anti-racism agenda after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor's deaths, and Black at UKY brought great media attention to the BLM movement.
President Capilouto emailed students about taking steps toward a "more just and equitable campus." From holding call-in days to make sure that administration hears the voices of the concerned to meeting with the Executive Vice President of Finance Dr. Eric Monday and Dr. George Wright to voicing apprehensions about the reopening of the university amidst the global coronavirus pandemic to asking for donations and backpack drop-offs to hand out to children in need in Lexington, Black at UKY shows genuine concern for their campus and community.
I hope that one day soon, their mission will finally be taken seriously and that the University of Kentucky will truly adopt the anti-racism agenda and face these issues head-on, starting with making those who act out against their peers or students out of racism face the consequences.