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Courtesy of Jag 9889 / Wikimedia Commons

In support of Trenton-based community organizations and in solidarity with nationwide demonstrations against systemic racism, the Black Leadership Coalition (BLC), a network of campus Black student organizations, raised almost $14,000 from University students in less than a week. The BLC’s fundraising now totals more than $18,000. 

Proceeds from the BLC’s GoFundMe campaign went to I Am Trenton, a community foundation that supports local businesses struggling from COVID-19 and minority-owned businesses impacted by social unrest earlier this month. 

The BLC developed the fundraiser during a virtual town hall meeting on June 4. Members discussed how they could respond to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans nationwide, especially at the hands of police.

“Everybody wanted to help in some way, but no one really knew how,” said Folarin Okulaja ’22, Vice President of the Princeton Black Men’s Association (PBMA).  

“Coming together as a Black community was the initial focus,” said Toussaint Webb ’22, President of PBMA. “The cruel video, watching [George Floyd] being murdered for eight minutes, lit a fire under a lot of people.”

The conversation turned to ways the BLC could take concrete action and leverage the Princeton community to help create change, Webb said. Different organizations originally wanted to hold their own fundraisers, but the BLC, which coordinated town halls and protests in response to the 2014 killing of Michael Brown, decided to move forward as a collective.

Okulaja and Webb, along with Tamilore Ajeigbe ’22, Maya Houser ’22, Germalysa Ferrer ’22, and Frelicia Tucker ’22, spearheaded the fundraiser, which occurred in three stages. By design, the campaign benefited not only national nonprofits, but also local groups — a fact important to the students. 

“We saw a lot of fundraisers helping national efforts,” said Okulaja. “Since we are in Princeton, New Jersey, and Mercer County, there are a lot of surrounding areas that also need help.” 

Okulaja spoke recently with an organizer for I Am Trenton. 

“They’ve expressed their thanks and are very excited about what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s been a very positive response.”  

In the next two weeks, BLC will hold fundraisers for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Equal Justice Initiative. These campaigns will focus on University faculty and alumni, who are encouraged to double the amount students donated in the first week. 

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund supports economic, educational, and legal equality, while the Equal Justice Initiative works toward criminal justice reform. 

Faculty and alumni involvement is critical if the entire Princeton community is to meaningfully fight systemic racism, organizers said. 

“We all have to work together and build this community together,” Webb said. Many times, according to Webb, “a lot of words are said, and no action follows.” 

Members hope similar initiatives will continue through campus town halls and tackle issues of racism and representation on campus — including PSAFE reform, diversity of faculty in academic departments, and the University’s relationship with Woodrow Wilson Class of 1879.

The organizers also hope to reach beyond FitzRandolph Gate. 

“There are so many ways that we can be of service,” wrote Ajeigbe. The BLC, he said, brings “the leaders of all the Black organizations together specifically for thinking of ways we can be of service to communities besides the Princeton one.” 

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