For her 21st birthday, junior screen acting major and Chapman University’s Black Student Union (BSU) president, Arianna Ngnomire decided to celebrate her life by commemorating Trayvon Martin.
Ngnomire shares her birthday with Trayvon Martin, whose life she says, “was taken away all too early.” Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American high school student who was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. “His trial and lack of justice sparked my passion for social justice. There are many others who were taken, and we will be remembering them with this demonstration as well,” Ngnomire said when asked for the reason behind this event. Since February is Black History Month, Ngnomire explained that this event was not only timely but aligns with the core purposes of BSU.
Rather than throwing a big party for her 21st birthday, Ngnomire wanted to do something that would make an impact on campus. “I think 21 is always looked at in American culture as a big deal and I wanted to do something big,” she said. She created a public Facebook event and encouraged people to attend.
The event was called “That Nigga Look Just Like Me” inspired by Frank Ocean’s song, Nike. “When I heard the song Nike by Frank he just says ‘RIP Trayvon, that nigga look just like me,’” said Ngnomire. “Even when the album came out it was a lyric that stuck out because it didn’t make Trayvon an unreachable entity. It was saying this could happen to anyone of us.”
Chapman students gathered in the Attallah Piazza on February 5 at 8 p.m., each wearing a grey sweatshirt, carrying a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea. Ngnomire asked for attendees to wear this as a sign of solidarity toward Trayvon Martin who was wearing a sweatshirt and carrying these items when he was killed.
Students took the opportunity to recognize other tragedies, similar to Trayvon Martin’s. They gathered in a circle with their eyes closed, hand in hand, and said the names of other African Americans who were also wrongfully shot and killed–most by law enforcement. Names heard on the news and social media, such as Sandra Bland and Alton Sterling, were mentioned.
“Today to me is a day to recognize something that seems to have become a normalized tragedy,” said percussion performance senior, Andrea Stain.