BLM flag raised Friday morning


Elizabeth Taylor | The Daily Eastern News

Shyra Bluminberg, a senior English education major, and Morgan Colvin, a graduate student studying political science, present the Black Lives Matter flag that was raised in a ceremony Friday morning.

Corryn Brock, News Editor

Two students raised the Black Lives Matter flag as the first flag on Eastern’s new “We are EIU” flagpole that is meant for “recognizing the diversity of communities across campus.”

Morgan Colvin, a graduate student studying political science, and Shyra Bluminberg, a senior English education major, were asked to raise the first flag after their efforts in Fall 2018 to raise the BLM flag during the following Black History Month.

In October of 2018, the Student Senate was asked to make a recommendation to University President David Glassman on whether or not to fly the flag.

The Senate ultimately decided to not recommend the flag be flown and after a discussion with the President’s Council, Glassman decided to not fly the flag on campus as to not set a precedent that flags could be requested to fly on the American flagpole.

Two years later, the university introduced the “We are EIU” flagpole dedicated to recognizing the diversity of communities on Eastern’s campus in terms of heritage, culture and gender/orientation, with a list of expectations for the requested flags.

Criteria for the flags flown on the pole include:

· Flags must be the appropriate size for the height of the pole

· Flags will be flown at half-mast when the United States flag is flown at half-mast

· Flags must conform to Eastern’s mission of diversity, inclusion and equity

· Student and employee organizations may request a certain flag be eligible to be flown for a period of time

· No political or organizational flags of non-profit or profit entities are allowed

· The administration retains the right to determine how long flags are flown for

· No flag will be flown if it denigrates any heritage, culture or gender/orientation on campus

The determination of if flags will be flown will be made by the Vice President of Student Affairs.

Glassman said he is looking forward to seeing how the new flagpole is used.

“I’m feeling very good. We wanted to find a way in which we could support all of our students that are unrepresented and marginalized as well as different heritages and so on, it just took a little while to figure out what was the best way to do it and get a flag pole up but I’m very pleased,” Glassman said.

He said while they missed the change to fly a flag for Latino Heritage Month, he is looking forward to all of the groups that will be represented in the coming flags.

The next to be raised is a flag for LGBT History Month on Friday. In November a flag for Indigenous People will be flown.

Colvin said she is expecting some backlash.

“The community has been more receptive to Black Lives Matter but we know it’s not the whole community so we are going to see how this goes,” Colvin said. “They did it on a Friday which was smart but they’re going to get all of it next week.”

Glassman said he is hoping the reaction towards the flagpole will be similar to the administration’s excitement surrounding it.

“I hope the reaction will be the same as the administration’s [reaction]. We are committed to diversity and inclusion and this is just one symbolic form of that to demonstrate to our student and our whole EIU community that we are here for them and we welcome students of all different backgrounds to EIU and we want them to feel embraced and feel safe on our campus,” Glassman said.

He added he was grateful that the two students who pushed for the BLM flag to be flown two years ago were able to raise it as the first flag on the new pole.

“I appreciate our two students, Morgan and Keshyra, who worked very, very hard initially to have a Black Lives Matter flag flown at EIU but that was the catalyst for us to do something where we can do something to recognize all different heritages and backgrounds and ethnicities at EIU because we are all in for EIU,” Glassman said.

For Bluminberg and Colvin, the experience was emotional.

“It was exciting, I don’t even know, I wanted to cry,” Bluminberg said.

“I thought I was going to cry today. I’m just happy. I’m genuinely just happy and it’s good that the campus is changing,” Colvin said. “You can really see that things are changing, like the world is changing overall but now you can really see it.”

Bluminberg said though the wait was long, the work they did was worth it.

“For me it’s overwhelming because I just think back to the hard times we had where just felt like nobody was listening to us. People just kept questioning us and we didn’t know why people were questioning us because these are people’s lives we’re talking about. We’re not talking about anything political or hateful or divisive. This just people’s lives, everyday lives,” Bluminberg said “It was a really hard time so [seeing the flagpole] makes me want to cry.”

Colvin said she is excited to see the other groups that are recognized on the flagpole.

“I realize they’re going to recognize other communities, other marginalized communities, and I love that,” Colvin said. “I love the fact that they’re going to be doing the LGBTQIA community next week and I feel like this is really going to start giving the students a feeling of being represented.”

Colvin said she hopes this make more students feel welcome at Eastern.

“I see people posting on Facebook about how they feel out of place here and I feel like looking at that flag is the first step,” Colvin said. “It’s not the only thing we need to do but just making students feel welcome and at home like it’s a really place and that they’re acknowledged.”

“This campus can make some people not feel so good.”

She added that the flagpole is an outward sign of recent work by Eastern’s administration to be an inclusive campus.

“We were talking with Glassman about physical changes and changes we do not get to see and I feel like this will start bringing awareness to a lot of stuff he has started and he has created for Black students and minorities in general,” Colvin said.

Colvin said she was glad they were able to do the work they did.

“Me being a Black student and her being a Black student, we come from a world where people are always just telling us no and that we can’t do it and it’s just amazing that we did this and that we can continue to thing to help the Black community on campus,” Colvin said.

She said she hopes others feel empowered to fight for things they care about, even if it takes a while to see results.

“Things really can change. It’s things like the civil rights movement, you have to look back at that too and how things slowly happened and eventually we got to this point, so it just gives you hope,” Colvin. “You can really make change if you keep at it.”

Bluminberg said those looking to be activists should not be afraid to make others uncomfortable.

“Don’t be afraid to make people uncomfortable. Uncomfortability doesn’t mean anything, in order to grow, in order to learn we have to be uncomfortable,” Bluminberg said. “Don’t be afraid to push boundaries, don’t be afraid to make everyone uncomfortable, speak your mind regardless of whatever is going on because as Black women we don’t have a choice.”

“Forget what people say. Just do what’s best for you and what you know is right and that’s what we’re doing, we’re doing what’s right and I’m happy that other organizations and other groups can have their flag flown respectfully.”

Colvin said while their time at Eastern may be coming to an end and ending on a high note with the new flagpole, there is still work to be done.

“We leave in May so we really will be gone and this is what we left so it it’s amazing. It’s so powerful. I want other women, other Black people and other Black women to know that you can do if you really do it and push,” Colvin said. “There’s going to be hard times, it’s going ugly. The work doesn’t stop here.”


Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]