Audrey Tchaa –
The spark of the Peace March started with a conversation between Taasia Barfield and her friend, Brianna Yang. They were sitting on the second floor in Hovlid Hall the day after Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by police officer Betty Jo Shelby in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Sep 17, 2016. The discussion revolved around the death of Crutcher and Stout’s campus.
In regard to the conversation, Barfield said, “I was really emotional, and I was so close to crying. I told Brianna, ‘There’s always something with the black community,’ and asked ‘Why can’t we just be black? What’s wrong with us just being us? Why do we have to die because of our skin tones?’ It just brings me back to how this campus needs to change. This world needs to change, but right now the only thing I can focus on is this campus because that’s where I’m at, so that’s what I have to change right now.”
Barfield’s interest in helping her minority community started by just speaking up. When she became aware that the outcome wasn’t satisfying, she started researching both about the laws on Stout’s campus, and the laws throughout the United States. She also managed to do extensive research on past incidents that happened on Stout’s campus. This drove her to start movements and protests during her time at Stout.
“For four years I was fighting for the same thing, and all four years people told me ‘nothing is going to change.’ And I always told them, ‘nothing will change if you don’t stand behind me. One person can change the world, but I can’t do it alone.’ So it’s not going to change if you feel like nothing’s going to change. I’m black, you’re black, it’s a problem, stand with me on it,” says Barfield.
Barfield plays a significant role in her friends’ and peers’ lives. Your Turn, Stout and Yang described her as “bodacious, empowering, extroverted, badass and advocate.”
“She’s a starter. She initiates things, and I think that’s one of her most admirable qualities because she doesn’t just leave it as ‘I see a problem with this.’ She sees it as ‘I see a problem and I’m going to do something for it,’” says Yang.
In the upcoming year, the group Your Turn, Stout, are the new faces and leaders of the 2019 Peace March. Those who were interviewed are: Jasmine Baker, Vaughn Hess Jr., Hleeda Lor and Will Yang; they are all working together with two others, Brittany Zavala and Chia Lor. Barfield. Brianna Yang have also been helping.
Based off of the first march that occurred in 2017, Barfield did a lot of production in order to make this march run smoothly. This list includes: informing students and faculty members about the event, talking to student organizations, having the multicultural student organizations come together, forming specific teams with specific duties (like advertising), making posters, flyers, and banners and creating a promotional video, (“We Matter” on YouTube) which started the Peace March.
Your Turn, Stout has been doing the same work that Barfield did in the 2017 Peace March during the Fall of 2018 academic semester. They collectively feel that it’s an amazing opportunity to take over the peace march, knowing that most of them have gone to both marches in the past. “I definitely do think that we are trying to fulfill that legacy that Taasia has,” says Baker.
The group believes that the significance of the Peace March is to bring awareness to the Stout community and become a unified whole. “I really think this Peace March is about bringing awareness, and it’s not just a one-time Peace March that happened the first year or the second year. It’s continuing that significance of why we need this and telling everyone that these injustices are still happening, and we need to do something about it,” says Hleeda Lor.
Barfield explained that February is the month for black people, power and love, which is a perfect month to host this march. A key part of this march was to show solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement. “This is about unity. Coming together, loving each other for who we are, loving the skins that we are in as black people,” says Barfield.
“A lot of people were telling me that I couldn’t do the peace march right after Valentine’s Day, and I wondered ‘Why not?’ Because it’s about love, it’s about people loving us for us… It was to show that in a world full of people that hate us, as black people, we still have each other. Not only do we have each other but we have these groups of people that stand with us too,” says Barfield.
Yang knew that the Peace March would still be continuing after her and Barfield’s first march in 2017, but she never thought it would be as impactful as it is. “The original thought, for me at least, was that this is a response to what is happening; for it to go a step further, where it brings awareness to the issues happening on campus. I think that’s pretty amazing that it can have that impact on students,” says Yang.
Knowing this information, Yang feels that the Peace March is doing its intended job.
Barfield currently works at College Possible-Milwaukee as a Junior coach where she talks to high school juniors of color who come from low-income families about college and the opportunities it can give them. Barfield plans on going back to school soon to receive a law degree (at either Howard or Penn State), a master’s in psychology and counseling (at Alabama State or A&M) and is thinking about going back for an undergraduate degree in writing and journalism at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.