When the Homeless at Howard hash tag saturated the web, a vast number of supporters rallied in defense of the recently evicted student, Jawanza Ingram. Dialogues on social media were held about whether the punitive measures of the University were justified. News sources interrogated the legitimacy of Howard University’s residence policies. Activists from around the country sought ways to support Ingram. A single narrative was pushed to the forefront of twitter and appeared to develop into a “movement”.
However, within the next few days, the Homeless at Howard “movement” flopped when new evidence around the circumstances that led to Ingram’s eviction were unearthed. The President of Howard University, Wayne Fredrick, declared that although he was unable to disclose the particulars of the matter, there was more to the story that Ingram failed to mention. Myself, as well as the numerous supporters who advocated on behalf of the “movement” were left in shock. This caused the “movement” to become very unclear and ineffective. In fact, due to the circumstances Homeless at Howard “movement” was almost more of a setback than it was an advantage.
Where it went wrong:
In a twitter-released statement, Ingram stated that, although he was given free housing from a third party, he was not satisfied because it only touched the surface of the real problem at hand.He also mentioned wanting to,
“push for more clear policies regarding punishments for infractions as well as transparency between residences administration and residents.”
Although it is true that Howard has many things it could improve on, the problem comes in when the movement is not based on truth. If what my mentor said was correct, “any movement which seeks to improve the morality of its circumstances must have a morality of its own”, the Homeless at Howard movement was no movement at all.
A movement should not take place on the premise of a mistake that was judged too harshly. A movement should take place because as a student, you look around and you see a system that needs changing. It shouldn’t be forced and deceitful, it should be powerful and collaborative. In this situation it felt as though the “movement” was constructed backwards. In the first statement Ingram released sharing his story, he did not mention wanting to push for the clear policies that he mentioned in his last statement, he simply concluded that his goal was to get his housing back. After being accused of having other infractions, he then shifted to the movement and progression standpoint. Had the circumstances been different, this could have been a major step the student body could have used to demand change. Instead, it was more of a big let down, and proves that we still have much more work to do as a student body.
What a movement should look like:
In the future, when a movement surfaces on a University campus, it is imperative that that movement stands erect with character and integrity. This means that any sensitive information dealt to the public is done so with honesty. As student activists engaging in critical dialogue, we must approach a discussion with the firm understanding that in order to negotiate for change the truth must be represented fully.
On the other hand, student activists (such as myself) should exercise the virtue of patience. Despite the caution received from my fellow peers, I had advocated for Ingram’s cause without first hearing the University respond to the criticisms of his eviction. This did very little to protect the integrity of the potential movement. As activists, we have an obligation to observe an issue as something dynamic–with nuances and details that must be weighed considerably before reaching a conclusion.
If anything was learned this weekend from the Homeless at Howard hash tag, it’s that in order for a movement to work it must function from a place of honesty. Before we are so quick to go up in arms, we must make sure that it is rooted in only the most pure intentions. In order to evaluate the system, we must first evaluate ourselves.
Co written with Kamau Waset