“Black Out Day”: Loyola students zoom out of classes and tune into BLM–An Interview with Dorien Perry-Tillmon

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By: Ananya Chandhok 

They marched in 1963, whether or not their community stood shoulder to shoulder with them. They marched again in 2009, even when their community claimed “enough change” had been made. While a new generation takes their place in 2020, they continue to march with the same fervor in their hearts and same demands on their lips only to invoke the substantial amount of change still needed in this country. This group is none other than the Black youth now taking change into their hands at Loyola University Chicago.

Loyola students led a virtual boycott on university mandated classes on September 11 and invited students/faculty to listen to fellow Black students’ experiences at the university, thus calling for the school board and President Jo Ann Rooney to make long overdue reparations towards its Black students. 

One individual who is most prominently at the head of this campus wide movement is Dorien Perry-Tillmon, a second year film major who matriculated into Loyola upon the hopes of being part of a largely diverse student body and Black community. However, after seeing and experiencing degradation of the Black youth, Tillmon along with his peers established “Our Streets LUC”,  a now well known organization leading Black Lives Matter protests throughout the Roger’s Park community.

Through the peaceful processions led by this organization, the whole of the University and the surrounding community’s attention is now locked into identifying the list of demands presented by them.

They are asking the University board to take action and recognize the entirety of the Black student body/faculty while cutting ties with the Chicago police department, requiring a public apology for a lack of acknowledgement of Black struggles within the campus and surrounding community, and now also, the firing of the Dean of Undergraduate admissions.

These demands, alongside other prominent calls for reform, have both garnered support and presented a lack thereof from the university. Specifically, numerous individuals leading this movement have been arrested on campus grounds, despite having followed peaceful protesting protocol. Collectively, as a direct result of these demands and subsequent happenings, the event best known as “Black Out Day”, a day to tune into Black students’ experiences while boycotting University academics, came into existence at Loyola’s campus. 

Rogers Edge Reporter met with Dorien Perry-Tillmon to discuss Black Out Day.

Roger’s Edge Reporter: It’s been quite eye-catching to witness “Our Streets LUC’s” growth from more “traditional means” of peaceful protesting, such as holding signs and marching on campus, to a “virtual means”, in this case the boycott of university mandated classes. Which leads me to ask, what was the backing reason to host “Black Out Day”, and consequently, what was the intended outcome of it?

Dorien Perry-Tillmon: Overall, we wanted to incorporate the whole aspect of self

Tillmon leading a protest

education in relation to protesting for BLM at Loyola. Fortunately, people seemed to like that a lot, but again it was really frustrating to see the administration failing to address the demands we’ve put in place. My goal for this event was to just get faculty, staff, administrators, and professors to listen to us. We even invited them to come. We were met with support, granted it was minimal, from a few professors, who said they ended up really enjoying the event. Given the outcome, it was a good day, and I’m glad that we did this event.

RER: Definitely…It’s interesting to see how the protests are diversifying, in terms of the types of individuals attending, which includes students, Roger’s Park community members, and now even certain professors. 

RER: Given this huge step in public outreach by “Our Streets LUC”, what do you think is one of the greatest takeaways you can identify after hosting an event spotlighting individuals from different walks of life talking about their time at Loyola as a Black student?

Tillmon: I think it just really shows that it’s not an isolated event to come face to face with different forms of injustice from within our community all rooted in the same lack of understanding. It was eye opening to see that even people I had never met before and are facing the same ongoing battle as me, and you know, just as the Blackout event went on, it became more apparent that we’re all more than a community of students…we’re a family. Overall the statement I want to put out is listen to your Black students’ demands to be treated as equal, and stop trying to silence our voices.

RER: Post this Blackout event, whose turnout was very high, as you indicated earlier, what’re some other events we can plan on seeing in the coming days and weeks? 

Tillmon: So [late September] our plan is to respond to Marcus Mason’s [ex admission’s manager at Loyola] resignation, in which he cited numerous ongoing instances of racism against him. We plan on continuing to protest outside of the admissions office, but during their admissions events, which are going on every day this week at three o’clock. Our main goal surrounding this is to get Erin Moriarty [Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Mason’s ex boss] fired as well as have our updated list of demands addressed. 

RER: Is there any final message that you would like to give to Loyola’s student body/faculty as well as the Roger’s Park community?

Tillmon: I think one of my favorite quotes encompasses our overall purpose really well, “If you want us off the streets, then listen to our demands.” They [University administration] beg me all the time to stop, but that won’t happen. If you really want us to stop, then look up our demands on Ourstreetsluc.org and start checking them off.

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