On June 4th, 2020, a UNC Charlotte student named Josh Mason, a junior year kinesiology major, took on the admirable- yet daunting task of leading a march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. This 4 mile march started at the Five Guys on North Tryon Street and ended on the steps of the Popp Martin Student Union on UNCC’s campus. Tensions were high in charlotte following the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020. While protestors were speaking out on social media and being tear gassed and arrested in the streets for standing up for black lives, Mason was formulating his own plan to unify the UNCC community. We asked Josh Mason a series of questions in order to gain some perspective on what it was like to lead the march, along with his thoughts on what we can do to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
*some answers have been edited for clarity.
Q: What prompted you to organize the march at UNCC?
A: I think it was the fact that I saw so many of our uncc students voicing their opinions about police brutality & racial injustice on social media so I thought… since everyone has so much to say online..why don’t we all come out and physically let our voice as a community be heard?
Q: How did it feel to see UNCC students come together to support something so pressing and important?
A: It felt very good. I was actually surprised to see how many students came out in solidarity. I wasn’t expecting even a third of the amount of people that came, especially during the uncertain times of this coronavirus pandemic. Yet, that just shows that our school body really cares about the well being of the black and brown lives being affected by systemic oppression.
Q: Did you fear for your safety or the safety of others at the march?
A: Going into it I knew the possibility of something going wrong, especially with the current political climate today. There were protests in Charlotte a couple days before where the police had gotten violent, and that rubbed some students the wrong way. We even had some people who were completely against the march & spoke out against it on Twitter & Instagram. On top of that, with coronavirus on the rise I knew I was taking a big risk (which is why we stressed the masks). At the end of the day I felt we as students needed to stress this issue because it’s been ongoing for years and I felt our administrators weren’t making a big enough statement with just sending an email or two out to the student body. So it was worth every bit of the risk.
Q: What was the best moment for you during the march?
A: The best part was when we were almost to the bottom of North Tryon and I turned around and the entire hill as far as I could see was filled with people. It felt so good to be a part of something bigger than myself.
Q: What is your advice to people who want to contribute to the BLM movement?
A: I think people should take a step back and realize it’s more than just a “movement”. Black men and women experience shortcomings every single day just because of the melanin we have. I think the first step is being able to educate yourself on the true reasons why we, as African Americans, are getting fed up about this issue.
Q: What do you think the UNCC community can do to support black lives?
A: Start with the community surrounding campus. Get to know the local lawmakers, figure out who the mayors are and look at the policies they stand for. Research the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief. Change starts from the top down. It starts with policy. Since these elected officials “work for the community”, their views should reflect that. Research their policies, if an official doesn’t have any that deal with racial equality.. write them, call their offices, urge them to make a change and stress how important this topic is to us as students.
Q: Are there any organizations or resources that you support that more people should know about?
A: Revamp Clt, a Charlotte non profit myself and my good friend Leslie Hunter began back in June. Revamp is a community based organization that has 3 main initiatives
1. Ending homelessness in the city of Charlotte.
2. Having police / community sitdowns discussing law enforcement reform.
3. Civic engagement: getting the youth involved with learning more about politics, financial literacy and community involvement.
Their Instagram is @revampclt. To clarify, I took a step back from the org to focus on school but it is still up and going strong in the Charlotte community.
Heal Charlotte is a Charlotte non profit as well that specializes in having after school programs for youth in the inner city that bridges the police and African American community divide.
Q: Is there anything else that you want our readers to know about?
A: Research the “end qualified immunity” bill. Urge the stoppage of no Knock warrants in all 50 states.
We all must listen to the black and brown voices in our community and stand with them in solidarity. Now and for the rest of time is the time to act and make positive change.
Head to our Instagram @hercampusuncc for pictures of the protest provided to us by Josh Mason.