The Hamilton Lugar School boasts some of the brightest students at Indiana University, students who are globally engaged, who work hard to understand current issues and make lasting change. After George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police reached national and international news, Bloomington residents organized a protest in solidarity, declaring “enough is enough.” One of the event’s co-organizers is HLS student Salina Tesfagiorgis, a rising senior/first-year in the Department of International Studies’ Integrated BA/MA program and a new member of the Global Student 7.
Salina had attended protests before, but this time was different. She led. “The emotions that [Floyd’s death] brought out were so raw and heated. I couldn’t just sit back. Bloomington wasn’t loud enough.” When fellow Groups Scholar and friend, Selena Drake, tweeted about organizing a protest, Salina quickly joined the team.
They gathered more volunteers and practical resources, like materials for poster-making, water and food, and masks and gloves to stymie the spread of COVID-19. They contacted as many organizations and businesses in the community as possible and were able to garner support from the City of Bloomington. Even the police department helped them plan a route for the protest to ensure the safety of locals.
Salina says, “What was most important was we set our goals and were able to state them clearly, so everyone would be on board.” Their goals include addressing the current political climate of police brutality and Black lives through demands for transparency in police budgeting and disciplinary and misconduct reports; the removing of barriers to reporting police conduct; and addressing voter suppression amongst Black populations in Indiana.
The organizers emphasized that the June 5th protest would be peaceful–and reminded people as they arrived day-of at Dunn Meadow. “We aren’t against the rioting or the emotions behind it, but we didn’t want anyone to be put in danger, and we wanted to make sure our voices were heard. We also didn’t want to harm local businesses that were in support.”
Salina recounts the moments before she and the Enough Is Enough team delivered opening remarks to a crowd estimated at 7,000. “Music was playing—I Was Born by the River—and I turned around to this mass crowd and started tearing up, because it was so heartwarming. It’s such a lonely, hopeless feeling when people keep getting killed, but when I saw all those people holding signs and portraits of those we’ve lost, quotes, it was like, ‘This big crowd came from a tweet.’ We’re not that insignificant in this big world. We can do it. We will do it.”
Enough Is Enough now is more than a chant ringing out between Dunn Meadow and the Monroe County Courthouse. It’s growing into an organization seeking transparency and accountability within policing agencies. Also a priority—building community. They’ve raised funds for the Banneker Center and The Christamore House in Indianapolis, and they hosted a mini-week of events celebrating in Bloomington. The group has also protested in response to an alleged racist assault on Bloomington local Vauhxx Booker.
Salina’s activist spirit influences her academics at the Hamilton Lugar School. Her International Studies concentration in Human Rights and International Law concentration is accompanied by a minor in Anthropology. She plans to focus on water politics and environmental racism, an interest that stemmed from the crisis in Flint, Michigan. “There are water crises brewing in many low-income, poverty-stricken areas. I just want to learn and hopefully change that, using the context of international studies.”
Salina is also enacting change in the Hamilton Lugar School’s undergraduate curriculum. As a member of GS7, the Dean’s student advisory board, she pitched a course that closes the gap between international theory and Black perspectives. The proposal was met with enthusiasm from leadership and was developed in time for the Fall 2020 semester. Incoming freshmen are invited to take an Intensive Freshman Seminar on Black Lives Matter as a Global Movement. The course will be available to all IU students during the 2020 winter intercession (Nov. 30–Dec. 14).
Now that Salina knows first-hand the kind of work that goes into organizing, she’s considering the nonprofit sector as a career path after graduation. “This isn’t a temporary thing. I want to continue to follow my heart and where the world takes me.”