Michael Sullivan

Photographer
    
A Silent Demonstration
Location: Madison, WI
Nationality: American
Biography: Michael Sullivan is a humanistic photographer located in Madison, Wisconsin. As a child, Michael recalls there being Polaroid and Instamatic camera’s used to capture special moments and every day happenings. Seeing his youth preserved in a... MORE
Public Story
A Silent Demonstration
Copyright Michael Sullivan 2024
Date of Work May 2023 - Ongoing
Updated May 2023
Location Madison
Topics Activism, Black and White, Breaking News, Civil Rights, Freedom, Human Rights, Oppression, Photography, Photojournalism, Protests, Racism, Reportage, Social Justice
Summary
Photos from a demonstration by Black students at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
Recently, an undergraduate student, Audrey Godlewski, who attends the University of Wisconsin Madison, posted a video on her social media in which she unleashed a tirade against Black people. This incredibly offensive, hateful video has reignited a call for the university to take action, specifically expel Godlewski from campus.

The Blk Pwr Coalition and others occupied the hall outside Chancellor Mnookin’s office in Bascom Hall in an effort to deliver their list of demands. When the Chancellor finally arrived, she reluctantly stood and listened to the demands. At the end, the Chancellor reiterated her limited ability to take action due to legal constraints, stating, “You probably don’t like that, but it is also the case.” In addition, the Chancellor said, “I’m sorry you’re facing this today. I’m sorry you’re facing this within our community.” Implicit in these statements by the Chancellor Mnookin are that this is a one-off thing that has happened, and does nothing to acknowledge that racists tirades like this, to a greater or lesser degree, are an everyday occurrence by many underrepresented people. And ignoring the historical trauma events like this perpetuate. Further, saying “within our community” makes one ask, who is the “our” in that sentence?

Prior to the Chancellor’s arrival, LaVar Charleston, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion and Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer, was trying to address the students concerns. During this, one of the more powerful statements came from a student who said, “We [Black students] are only 2% of the campus. We are easy to protect. It’s not hard.” Charleston has put out several statements condemning the video. His words have been seen as hollow and have brought little comfort, as they are words with no action behind them. As someone who has been on this campus for 16 years, the same words seem to have been said too many times over the years, anytime a thing like this has happened. And each time, the words have brought no solace—similar to “Thoughts & Prayers” after a mass shooting—and carried little to no action and little to no significant, lasting change. Students also expressed they felt Charleston was not a supportive voice on-campus for Black people and people of color.

The Chancellor exited the building. The students did as well. Forming themselves outside into one body of solidarity that moved slow and silent down Bascom Hill to Library Mall, where they stood together, arms linked, silently for nearly 30 minutes. Passersby looked on with wonder, some smiling, others turning and going a different direction. When the group moved it again, it was slow and deliberate, until it reached Langdon street, where it broke up and then reformed into a vocal, chanting, marching body of solidarity that proceeded to University avenue, Johnson street, and back to the Red Gym on Langdon street. Along the way, the peaceful protesters disrupted traffic and showed they will not be silenced and they will not stand for racism.
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A Silent Demonstration by Michael Sullivan
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