On July 24, at 11 a.m., after the assembly, students were stunned to see what was happening right in front of their eyes. A demonstration called a Die-In was going on outside the main door of the Academy Building.
Dozens of students, black and white, were sprawled on the lawn as if dead. Many wore signs identifying them as victims of racial violence, people like Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. Others held signs with slogans like “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace No Racist Police” or gave out leaflets explaining the Die-In.
Geraldo Reid, one of the participants, said that this action was aimed to memorialize African-Americans killed by the police. Claude Roc said that they wanted to stop violence by the police against black people. Kenneth Walker said they were appealing for an end to police brutality; Devin Robbins said they were eager to raise the awareness of the violence and racism against blacks.
The four student organizers of this demonstration — Kaprice Brathwaite, Leslle Qoyada, Tatyana Brocon, and a fourth who preferred not to be named — gave out a lot of information. They said that they were supposed to hold it last Friday, but the Exeter faculty stopped them because they needed to be notified in advance.
The students said that would defeat the purpose. “We don’t want people to know that,” one explained. “It’s all a surprise. When students get out, they will be like ‘Oh my goodness, people are lying on the ground. What happened?’”
Some questioned whether the faculty was supporting them or found it too controversial. “We are not violent people,” said Tatyana, “or the protest would be very different. As you see on the news, they threw things, shot the cops.”
The action grew out of an earlier demonstration a week ago Wednesday. “We walked around the dining hall, saying ‘no justice, no peace.’ And then the campus safety officer came, walking into the dining hall, seeing what had happened. But we didn’t do anything wrong. We didn’t take food from students’ hands; we didn’t block them from getting into the dining hall.”
A compromise was reached after the school administration was told about the Die-In but agreed not to announce it so as the maximize its effect as the students exited the Assembly.
When talking about the topic, one of the organizers said that a lot of people countered “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” but she said the point was that black people are the most in danger. She said she feared for her life as a black person. For instance, when she went to school every morning, 85 percent of the time there was cop following her all the way, which she said would never happen with a white person. Thus, she just wanted to raise the attention of racism against African-Americans.
Even in Exeter with such diversity, racism is not unknown, organizers said. Hence, they appealed to everyone to be careful with their words in case they might unintentionally hurt the feelings of black students.