By Joergen Ostensen
Hawk Newsome, the president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, (BLMGNY) spoke at Fordham about his activism, his biography and his discontentment with both the political system and Fordham University.
Fordham Libertarians and Fordham Political Review co-hosted the event in Keating on Feb. 20.
Fordham Libertarians helped bring Roger Stone to campus in October. Newsome said he was surprised that Fordham Libertarians had then invited him.
“The libertarians wouldn’t have even entered my mind,” he said.
However, he also said he understands the connection between libertarianism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Both groups agree that the government should be less intrusive and that the Constitution should prevail, according to Newsome.
Fordham Libertarians said it is trying to encourage student engagement by bringing a variety of political voices to campus.
“It’s about getting people out,” said Jacob Linker, president of Fordham Libertarians.
Linker also said there is significant overlap between the message of BLM and libertarianism.
“[Libertarianism] is about protecting the rights of citizens against people in power,” he said.
Newsome opened his speech by saying that he had been to physical therapy that day to help him recover from injuries he sustained from the police. However, he said he wanted to speak from a place of love.
Newsome urged students to take their compassion and channel it into action.
“We have to find a way to turn that love into action, we are desensitized to suffering,” he said.
Newsome told the story of Deborah Danner, a 66 year old woman with paranoid schizophrenia who was shot and killed by New York Police Department officer Hugh Barry in the Bronx in Oct. 2016.
BLMGNY helped to bring the case to trial, but Barry was acquitted despite evidence of ignoring police protocol, according to Newsome.
Newsome said he was disappointed by the lack of people who came out to support BLMGNY at Barry’s trial.
“You need to show up,” he said. “You need to take a stand for humanity.”
Newsome criticized the police’s support of Barry throughout the trial. He said the institution of policing is flawed.
“I’m not here to bash all police,” said Newsome. “I’ll tell you this, policing as an institution is racist.”
Newsome said his upbringing led to his activism. His parents met at a civil rights rally.
“I believe in my heart that I am walking in my destiny,” he said, pointing out at the audience.“My whole life is fighting for y’all.”
After a previous arrest, he received a general equivalency diploma (GED) and worked as a paralegal for the Bronx District Attorney. Newsome said the corruption he saw led him to leave the DA and head to law school with the hopes of becoming a politician.
“I felt like a hypocrite. I felt like a sellout,” he said. “My passion was with the people.”
However, Newsome said politicians are not representing the people.
“[They] do not work for you,” he said. “They work for special interests…because they operate out of selfishness, not love for the community.”
Newsome’s dissatisfaction with the political system has led him to reject the Democratic Party.
“I have no loyalty to parties. I care about people,” he said. “I ain’t voting until black lives matter.”
Newsome also addressed activism within the black community. He said he does not believe that blacks are holding the Democrats responsible.
“I can’t let them off the hook,” he said.
Newsome said he helped found BLMGNY in 2016 because he was disappointed by other Black Lives Matter organizations in New York City.
Newsome grew up and still lives in the South Bronx. Housing projects are still filled with garbage, urine, defecation and drug addicts, according to Newsome. He encouraged Fordham students in the audience to come out and support him in his efforts to improve The Bronx.
“Fordham should have real presence in the Bronx,” he said. “And I don’t believe that it does. I would love to help them give back to our community.”
Newsome said it is not enough just to post on social media or go to one march. He said he wants people to live by Jesus’ commandment to “love thy neighbor.” He invited everyone to help his organization.
“Don’t let anyone feel like you’re not welcome in this fight,” he said.
Linker, who introduced Newsome to the audience, said he agreed with much of what Newsome said.
“Ninety percent of what he said, there’s no argument,” Linker said.
Newsome said it was important for him to speak at Fordham because it sits in the most diverse county of New York City, as well as one of the poorest.
“If I could encourage or inspire the students here to go out off-campus and to work in the communities and help build up these communities then it’d be God’s work,” he said.
As a Bronx resident, Newsome said he thinks Fordham is closed off from the surrounding community, and sends a negative message with the separation.
“I think it would be hard for the average Bronxite to just take a stroll on your campus,” said Newsome. “Why? Is Fordham afraid of the blacks and latinos in this county? It’s like separation, segregation.”
Bob Howe, Assistant Vice President of Communications, said that camuses without restrictive access are very rare, and Fordham is working to balance community engagement with their need to limit the flow of people onto campus.
Newsome said that people can just walk onto the campuses of CIty College and Hofstra. He said a lot of campuses around the country are starting to allow that.