Civil rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson visited Howard University‘s campus over the weekend to offer words of encouragement and support for students who for weeks have been protesting living conditions on campus in addition to several administrative policies.
Jackson met with students in the Blackburn Center, which has become Ground Zero for the protest where people demonstrating have erected a community of tents where they are living until their demands are met.
The meeting reportedly left students feeling energized and even more resolute in their protest.
April Ryan, a correspondent for the Grio, published a report on Saturday about how Jackson urged students to stay their course. Jackson reacted to reports that students were facing discipline for participating in the protests that entered their third week on Monday.
“Students should not be punished but appreciated for standing up for justice,” Jackson reportedly said.
Jackson also reportedly took part in a special student-led town hall meeting on Sunday night following a day of meeting with student protesters and other civil rights leaders like the Rev. William Barber.
While meeting with student-protesters in the Blackburn Center on Saturday, Jackson offered some sage advice to the young demonstrators: “Never Surrender. Keep Hope Alive.”
Expounding upon that same sentiment, Jackson reportedly said during the town hall Sunday night, “This is not a legal issue, this is a moral issue.”
The protest first began as a sit-in on Oct. 12 when students spent the night in the Blackburn Center to get university leadership to heed their complaints about a “housing crisis” for students as well as the university’s board of trustees, among issues.
The protest sparked a viral #BlackburnTakeover hashtag that populated social media timelines with photos, video footage and first-person testimonials from inside and outside of the Blackburn Center in a demonstration of solidarity against the university administration.
According to the Live Movement, an organization advocating for Black college students, the protesters at Howard have three demands: 1) an in-person town hall meeting with Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick before the month ends; 2) for all “affiliate trustee positions” and their voting power to be reinstated to Howard’s Board of Trustees; and 3) the board of trustees to address a “housing plan” in an effort to “protect incoming classes.”
Protesters initially wanted an in-person meeting with Frederick and other campus leaders to directly address their demands. Now, they want a vote of no-confidence against him.
Chief among the students’ complaints have been reports of mold in campus dormitories. One person even claimed that a fellow student has been hospitalized from the model after “coughing up blood,” claims that were also reported by local media.
Students recently took shots at Howard’s 40-year contract with Corvias, the property management company hired to provide maintenance for the dorms. In a video posted to Twitter, a student called Corvias a “very slum lordy company” and explained her issues with the company.
“They don’t respond to maintenance requests,” the student said. “I requested my air filter be cleaned multiple times, it hasn’t been cleaned or changed. There is also mold growing from the exit sign outside of my dorm.”
Howard president Frederick in a public letter last week called for students to end their occupation of the Blackburn Center.
“The truth remains that all of our students deserve a best-in-class dormitory experience at Howard, and we will continue to do our best to ensure that they receive it,” Frederick wrote in part. “While there have only been a small number of documented facilities reports relative to our entire inventory of residence rooms, we are actively inquiring about unreported issues that may be in the residence halls by going door to door to interview and assist each resident.”