The hashtag is familiar — it’s reached millions through the bright screen of a smartphone, fueling conversations about the violence conducted on Black bodies by police in America. #BlackLivesMatter was created in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer by three queer, radical Black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. Utilized as a platform and organizing tool, #BlackLivesMatter is a decentralized network, as well as a social and political intervention in a world where Black lives are intentionally targeted.

The impact and relevance of #BlackLivesMatter reaches a variety of ABC-identified students’ experiences in higher education. Whether it’s attending a university with only a handful of Black faculty, or sitting through a class with only a single other Black person in the room, experiences such as these demonstrate the inescapable and everyday effects of systemic racism.

I talked to five different ABC-identifed students at UC Santa Cruz about their perspectives on #BlackLivesMatter. Here is what they had to say.

Biah Almajid Fourth-year College Ten Psychology major, education minor

“Being a first-generation student and also identifying as a Muslim, woman, and low-income student definitely impacts my experience at the university.

And it’s interesting because when I’m in certain spaces, I feel more closely to a specific identity. So like, when I’m with [BSU] or ASU, I definitely feel Black, you know? Whereas when I’m working, I just put on a different role as a student.

Although all these identities intersect, it’s like I’m wearing all these different hats and I can’t just be Biah, if that makes sense. I feel like I constantly have to play these roles that aren’t fully me. I mean, they’re still me, but not 100 percent me.”

Imari Reynolds Fourth-year Cowell College Intensive psychology major

Illustration by Lizzy Choi

“We have to take space at [UCSC]. Everything that Black students have at [UCSC] is a result of having to put our bodies on the line. For instance, R.PAATH took many years of work just to get the building painted.

To keep the building filled constantly, we’re having to put our bodies on the line just to have that community space. The university is very good at promoting that they’re recruiting more and more ABC-identified students, but if you get into an upper-division math class, science class, or even a psychology class, you’ll see one or two Black students in the class.

So what does that go to say about the numbers of these students that they’re recruiting?”

Donnaven Bradley Fourth-year College Ten Critical race and ethnic studies major Vice President of BSU

“Exactly what it says, Black lives matter. What that hashtag means to me is a direct statement and reminder to American society that Black lives do matter, and that Black lives are not something that are disposable. A lot of times injustices happen to Black bodies and they go unsolved, whether it’s murders from various neighborhoods or even at the hands of the police themselves.

#BlackLivesMatter is a direct reminder of the truth and reality that Black lives do matter. Because throughout history, American society has embedded within their fabric and whole foundation that Black lives are disposable, and Black lives only have a value on it when it’s a monetary value being produced for American society.”

Davon Thomas Second-year College Ten History major

“California has an ethnic breakdown, it breaks down the white communities, Latinx communities, the Asian communities, and Black communities. Each of those communities, from the last time I checked, had representation in higher education equal to the California population representation.

The Black community makes up 6 percent of the state, but only makes up about 3.6 percent at each of the UCs. #BlackLivesMatter, to me, means understanding the representation that we do not have in higher education. On the UC Board of Regents, there’s, you know, only one or two Black people — and that doesn’t fully represent the Black community.”

Keiera Lavon Fifth-year Rachel Carson College Feminist studies major, education minor

“People forget that you’re only a student for four or five years — and I’m definitely going to be Black my whole life. And, whether I want to be political or not, I don’t really have a choice because I have a Black body.

Illustration by Lizzy Choi

So, when thinking about [UCSC] and the work I’ve had to do on this campus just to make myself comfortable enough to stay there as well as retain my community, it means a lot when we protest and people disrespect us, or when people say ‘Oh, does it matter?’ or ‘Can you please be quiet?’ or ‘Can you do this somewhere else?’ It makes me want to do it more.”