Students discuss racism, penalizing Mothers Original in town hall talks
Students expressed anger at the Original Mothers bar and demanded that the establishment issue an apology during a town hall forum Monday night.
“I’m flabbergasted that an apology hasn’t been given because the first step is admitting that you have a problem,” senior Jessica Strong said at the forum.
Almost 300 students showed up at the meeting, which was organized by the Association of Black Students, Connect 4 and the Senior Class Council.
The forum, held in Lab Sciences 300, was arranged to discuss an incident of alleged race discrimination by the Original Mothers bar in Chicago against six black male students on Oct. 17. Students have accused the bar of denying entry to the six because of their race.
Although the bar has not returned phone calls from Student Life, it released a statement saying it does not discriminate but will investigate the incident.
Students at the forum called for another student protest against the bar to follow up on the first one held by seniors in Chicago. Others demanded that the bar’s managers be fired or be given anti-discrimination training.
“We need to demand that they write an anti-discrimination policy, and they need to post it outside of their bar,” senior Nikki Spencer said at the forum.
Still other students suggested that the bar return the money that was spent there by seniors on the night of the incident.
“Our money is our vote,” senior Audrey King said. Another suggestion was made that Mothers should fund a scholarship for a University student.
The forum was intended to help the six black students and members of the Senior Class Council develop an official list of demands to give to the Original Mothers bar. The demands will be presented at a news conference held by the Senior Class Council at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Danforth University Center room 276.
Summary of the town hall
All six students who were denied entry to the bar were in attendance at the forum.
Senior Class President Fernando Cutz announced at the beginning of the event that the incident and the University’s response to it have prompted national and international media attention. CNN ran a TV spot on the story Sunday night, and The New Zealand Herald covered the story Monday.
Cutz also addressed questions about why students at the bar had not staged a walk-out from the establishment on the night of the incident.
Cutz took full responsibility for this and cited concerns he had on the night of the incident that people “weren’t level-headed and that it could escalate the situation.”
“The Senior Class Council and the six students who were involved were the only ones outside when it happened,” Cutz said in an interview. “The majority of students, I don’t believe they should be blamed for that decision. It wasn’t their decision to make.”
Karen Aroeste, St. Louis regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, also spoke at the event.
Aroeste said University students have the potential to use the incident to make a significant positive change.
“You do have an opportunity to turn lemons into a seriously large pitcher of lemonade,” Aroeste said.
Students react to Mothers,University-wide response
After the event, students shared their personal reactions.
Alex Cooper said he was unsurprised when he first heard about the incident at Mothers.
“I think the things that happened at Mothers bar were ridiculous but not too surprising just knowing how America is,” Cooper said.
Brandon Wilson, a sophomore and African-American studies major who is black, echoed Cooper’s sentiment that incidents of racism are common in America today.
“I’ve been called n—– and have racist comments directed towards me all the time,” Wilson said. “This [incident at Mothers] is really a microcosm of a bigger issue. We can get angry all day about six young men being rejected from a bar, but there’s 60,000 men being rejected from society in East St. Louis.”
Junior Wandalyn Savala, a member of Connect 4 who was involved in planning the event, said she felt students at the town hall were energized about the issue but fears they will not be for long.
“Everyone’s really fired up, and I’m excited about that,” Savala said. “But I know in a few weeks, people are going to be like, ‘Eh. Kinda don’t really have time. Kinda have a midterm.’”
Said junior Audrey Morrow, “I just really hope that when the spotlight goes away, that people still remember that we still have these problems to fix.”