On Silence and Speaking Out: Solana Russell ‘22

Solana Russell

Black Lives Matter activist Solana Russell '22 on why speaking out matters now more than ever. "This is a time to be seen." 

Solana Russell ’22 spent the summer using her voice to protest police brutality and social injustice. But it was a moment of silence that made the biggest impact on Russell, a UC junior and president of campus dance group Africa in Motion.

While participating in a massive Black Lives Matter march in June in her hometown of Brooklyn, NY, Russell joined demonstrators in kneeling for a moment of silence to honor George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all lives lost to racism and hate.

“There were thousands of people there, but the absolute stillness in that moment was incredible. I just got emotional,” she says. “And it has stayed with me.”

Russell was inspired to act after the killing of George Floyd in late May. Through social media, she got involved with BLM events in her community—despite her parents' hesitations.

"They were nervous about my safety at first, but they understood why I wanted to get out there. I told them 'this is a time to be seen.'" 

After participating in three demonstrations in the NYC area in June and July, Russell and a friend began creating care packages to distribute to fellow activists on the streets. Supplies like bottled water, snacks, and first aid items “help them feel supported,” she says. Over the summer, Russell estimates she helped distribute more than 65 care packages. 

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Russell (left) with a friend at a BLM event in Bedford-Stuyvesant
Russell's view from one BLM event in Brooklyn

It’s that sense of unity and support, says Russell, that’s often lost in some media coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“They tend to show all the violence [at protests],” she says. “What I felt was peacefulness."

Now back on campus, Russell says her experiences over the summer have given her a new perspective on the importance of activism at UC, especially as president of AIM. 

“I'm excited to add my input more within AIM and on campus,” she says. “It’s a powerful feeling to speak out.”

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