Bellarmine students lead action for racial justice

June 6, 2020

Bellarmine students at BLM protest


Bellarmine community members have joined the worldwide movement to demand racial justice following the recent deaths of four black people in the U.S. Faculty, staff and students participated in Louisville protests while also quickly organizing campus events throughout the week, including a Faculty and Staff Community Conversation, Prayer Vigil for Racial Unity and Justice, Student Government Association (SGA) Donation Drive for Black Lives Matter and peaceful protest in the Quad. For students, in particular, the movement has become a defining moment in which they’ve channeled raw emotion into social action that they promise to continue well into the future.     

“To boil it all down, I’m not going to stop protesting or using my voice until justice has been served in all cases, not just in Louisville, but everywhere,” said Kenna Mink, a sophomore majoring in business administration. 

For Kenna, the movement is deeply personal. She grew up a family friend of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville woman whom police shot to death in her home.

Kenna has attended protests every day since they began – nine days in all – witnessing how the demonstrations have grown in numbers and become more peaceful and organized as time passed.

Kenna Mink addresses students prior to BLM protest

She spoke on Friday at the student-led protest in the Quad, sharing her experience and explaining what the Black Lives Matter movement means to her. (Kenna is on the left in the photo above.) Dozens of students joined her.

“If I can show people, help them understand what I stand for, I will,” she said. “This is what I’m going to use my voice for. I feel like I’m a voice for a lot of my generation.”

Kenna and other students, including some from SGA, worked with the offices of Identity and Inclusion and Public Safety to collect money and supplies for Louisville’s protesters.    

They raised more than $3,000 in 24 hours that was used to buy a vanload of supplies, such as water, gloves and masks, with remaining funds to be spent or donated later.

There is also an ongoing drive on campus that resulted in another vanload of supplies within 24 hours. Collections will continue for the next week outside Cafe Ogle near the entrance of Einstein Bros. Bagels off the Quad. Donations may be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Click to view Flickr slideshowClick to view more photos from Friday's protest

Kelze' Riley, a senior majoring in political science and criminal justice, was also a part of these efforts, especially in organizing Friday's student protest, held in observance of what would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday.

She said that after other students saw her social media posts at the protests, they wanted to be involved, too. Kelze', who serves as SGA’s vice president of community engagement and campus culture, knew she could help create a safe space for students to peacefully protest. She contacted campus administrators and made arrangements.

“This does affect campus, because all the black students on our campus are being affected right now,” Kelze' said. “If there’s anything that we can do to show that Bellarmine is standing in solidarity with these students, and give them the opportunity to come together, I think it’ll mean a lot when we return in the fall, because people will know that fellow students were standing for them on the front lines.”

Kelze', who plans to graduate in December and attend law school next year, said her passion for civil rights ignited after she traveled to Selma, Alabama, the last two years for alternative spring breaks. In 2018, Bellarmine students joined thousands, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, for the Bloody Sunday 53rd anniversary march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and spent time with a restorative justice training program.

“This was an immediate call to action for me because I’ve heard and learned from the people who were there in the ’60s,” she said. “I know I want to be on the right side of history, as they were.”

She said she was at a peaceful protest earlier this week when law enforcement dispersed tear gas and sprayed pepper bullets into the crowd, violence she’ll never forget.

“Seeing all that made me realize that all the things I’ve been learning about from the Civil Rights movement are still present today,” Kelze' said. “It may feel like Civil Rights history was so long ago. In reality, it’s still knocking right at our front door. That has been incredibly emotional for me.”

Bellarmine students and staff marching

Theo Brainer, a junior majoring in business administration, said he showed up to the campus protest because he hadn’t previously been to one and it was a good way to start.

“I don’t think I’ve been very educated about the Black Lives Matter movement, but I know what happened to Breonna Taylor, and others, all the way back to Trayvon Martin,” he said. “I don’t want things like that to happen anymore.”

Alexa Glass, a junior who majors in design, arts & technology and business administration, said she came to the campus protest to support the movement.

“Nothing has changed, and it’s been years,” she said. “I want to help make a change as much as possible.”  

After meeting in the Quad, students marched to a site near the waterfront, past the University of Louisville, joining thousands of others in Jefferson Square for an evening of powerful demonstrations in sweltering heat.

Dr. Helen-Grace Ryan, Bellarmine's vice president of Student Affairs, said students’ involvement and leadership have been remarkable, especially considering how carefully they have followed all COVID-19 precautions.  

“I’m infinitely proud of our students,” she said. “They’re finding their voice and standing up for the rights of others, and that is a critical part of the college experience.” 


All News Stories