In the wave of movements and trends of the Trump era, #HUResist is a powerful and often overlooked student-led initiative at Howard University that goes beyond anti-Trump organizing.
The student movement for administrative transparency started not long after President Donald Trump was elected. Students became aware of the cozy relationship blossoming on campus between the university’s administration and members of Trump’s cabinet.
Twenty year-old Jason Ajiake, a sociology major and member of #HUResist, told Shadowproof that Howard University President Wayne Frederick took part in a secret meeting with Betsy DeVos on campus. Rumors circulated that Frederick was trying to bring Trump to Howard.
“We believed that accepting special funding from the White House would force the university to abandon its morals in exchange for financial gain,” Ajiake recalled. “We brought together a group of concerned students and formed a list of six demands, which outlined frustrations with the direction of the university and called on the administration to better reflect the interests of students. We organized around these issues for the entire spring semester, facing harsh scrutiny from administrators.”
After returning in the fall, according to Ajiake, students learned former FBI Director James Comey was chosen to speak at the opening convocation and also lead a lecture series on race and policing in America.
“We found this to be insulting,” Ajiake shared, especially when taking into account how Comey popularized the racist “Ferguson effect,” and his role in overseeing surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists.
Additionally, Ajiake argued Comey represented a white supremacist institution.
After students met with administrators to discuss their concerns, they were ignored, which led to a petition signed by around 500 students. This was also ignored by administrators.
“When James Comey arrived for convocation, student activists chanted and shouted during his speech, effectively shutting him down. Despite that, Comey returned a month later to begin his senseless lecture series. Since then, student activists have challenged him each time he sets foot on campus,” Ajiake said.
Students from Howard, like other students across the United States, must defend themselves against accusations that they’re bludgeoning free speech with their protests.
A lot of the criticism aimed at university students, from both the right-wing and liberal establishment, centers around what they perceive as an inability of students to be open minded. They contend there’s some kind of authoritarian streak that’s taken over, and that left-wing students are silencing speech. But Ajiake suggested they “have no moral obligation to reconcile with oppressors.”
#HUResist was inundated with criticism from white liberals on social media, Ajiake added, and even from a significant number of people on campus. “But we believe that we must challenge the status quo in order to reinvent the world in a way that meets the needs of the most vulnerable.”
#HUResist may have started as a way to target oppressive institutions. It has since broadened to connect with communities, which students are taught to fear.
“From the second we set foot on campus, we are taught that were are better than ‘locals’ and that we should be afraid of them,” Ajiake asserted. “One of our principle objectives has been to challenge this bourgeois myth.”
“Right now, we’re raising money to provide hot meals for the houseless community around campus. We’re also working with local community organizations to combat gentrification in the area. To help guide future projects, we’ve begun to survey the surrounding community about their needs so that we can continue to bridge the gap in a non-intrusive way.”
#HUResist, in engaging their community as well as organizing against institutionalized oppression, has gone well beyond more recent movements that are tailored specifically against the Trump administration. What #HUResist represents is genuine resistance against not just the symptom that is Donald Trump, but the disease of white supremacy.
As Ajiake said, “Through strategic and sustained struggle, we can change the culture of Howard and ultimately impact the trajectory of the world.”