By Nicholas Clark
On October 22, Worcester State students had a unique and interesting opportunity come their way. The founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Worcester, Julius Jones, was invited as a guest speaker to host an open discussion.
As founder of the chapter for the second largest city in New England, Julius Jones is an extremely active member of the movement. He took part in some of the first organizations and rallies across the state.
Jones was invited to speak to students who are involved with civic engagement groups by his good friend, Dr. Mark Wagner. Dr. Wagner is a Worcester State professor and leader of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement.
Jones was able to speak with students about recent events that he was engaged in to further the movement, as well as mission plans and how to get involved.
He received general applause as he described how Black Lives Matter has gained ground so quickly and received so much national attention.
However, when Jones went on to speak further about the 2016 presidential race, political ideologies clashed.
Jones detailed a recent event where he had the opportunity to speak with the presidential candidate Hillary Clinton alongside other prominent Black Lives Matter members. He described Mrs. Clinton as very charismatic and a good negotiator as Secretary of State. He and other activists asked the presidential candidate questions about a clear civil rights stance and incarceration rates.
Jones briefed students on the history of rising incarceration rates (especially of minorities) and how Mrs. Clinton once stood behind the idea of more police and prison sentencing during the “crack boom” in New York City. He has yet to decide if he will support Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination.
Jones proceeded to tell students that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is the movement’s “greatest ally.” This is clear as the self described Democratic Socialist is extremely motivated on the issue of civil rights and oppression of minorities.
However, the tone changed when Jones brought up the event where two Black Lives Matter members seized the stage from Bernie Sanders in Seattle on August 8th, where he was due to address the crowd.
The movement was widely criticized by many of Sanders supporters for their disruptive behavior and some supporters stopped backing the Black Lives Matter movement all together. Jones called these Sanders fans “Standers.”
Julius Jones defended the movement by claiming how it was a success because Sanders released a new Civil Rights platform days after the two members took his stage. Jones expressed pride and even made a joke about the Socialist, saying, “Bernie ran with his tail between his legs when we took the stage.”
When a student asked if Jones would support Bernie all the way and grant him a vote, he answered, “He needs to get his act together first.” No further comment was clearly given as to what Sanders needed to change within his platform. Jones’ feelings towards Sanders may be explained by his stance on Socialism as a whole.
When discussing the history and structure of racism in the United States, he disregarded the Socialist view of class struggle and economic oppression on the lower classes by branding the historical struggle completely to the majorities’ idea of a superior ethnicity.
As Jones’ time with the Worcester State students came to an end, applause was heard and support given. Students were informed about ways to get involved and some pledged to do so.
The crowd Jones addressed had a clear mix of political ideologies from Democrat to Republican and even Socialist. Jones was fortunately able to relate to all of the groups, as everyone in attendance realized support was needed for this issue still plaguing the United States today. The need to address police brutality and demilitarize the police were the two real problems the audience was able to unite behind and grant support to the movement for.