Thursdays in Black

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Every Thursday since Sept. 19th, Luther students and faculty have gathered at the Luther bell at 9:30 a.m. to stand in solidarity with victims and survivors of gender-based violence. Attendees are encouraged to wear black, symbolizing empowerment, unity, and strength. Led by College Pastor Anne Edison-Albright and the Norse Against Sexual Assault student organization, participants hope to expand the movements impact on campus.

“Every Thursday, people all over the world wear black as a sign of solidarity with people who have survived gender-based violence and as a way to keep the conversation and actions toward ending gender-based violence at the forefront,” Edison-Albright said. “Wearing black together offers opportunities to share support for each other as well as to organize, change policies, and work for systemic changes.” 

The Thursdays in Black movement was founded by the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women, comprised of a number of different Christian denominations and congregations around the world. The campaign was inspired by: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who protested on Thursdays against the disappearance of children during the military dictatorship; the Women in Black in Israel and Palestine, who protest against war and violence; Women in Rwanda and Bosnia who were protesting against the use of rape as a weapon of war during the genocide; and the Black Sash movement in South Africa, which protested against apartheid and its use of violence against black people.

Edison-Albright brought the movement to Luther, after she learned about it during the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this past summer, where as a denomination the ELCA Church affirmed its of the Thursdays in Black campaign. 

“I was a voting member at the assembly, and had the opportunity to participate in and learn about Thursdays in Black from representatives from the World Council of Churches, including WCC Moderator Dr. Agnes Abuom from Kenya,” Edison-Albright said. “I knew it would be a practice I’d want to bring home and share at Luther. At the beginning of the year I talked to the student leaders of NASA about it during the activities fair and followed up with Colin Cosgrove (‘20) who has helped organize and lead Luther student participation and leadership of our gatherings.”

Each week during Thursday’s shadow block, different members of the Luther community share with the group a specific poem, prayer, or other reading that reflects their faith or core convictions. On Sept. 26, the group gathered at the bell discussed activism. On Oct. 3, Pastor Edison-Albright and students listened to Bobby McFerrin’s choral rendition of Psalm 23. A picture is then taken and posted on the College Ministries Facebook page and Edison-Albright’s Twitter account. The assembly usually lasts about five minutes.

NASA is a student organization that collaborates with Luther staff and advocates to educate the public about sexual assault at Luther and in the world. NASA members include students, survivors, allies, and supervising faculty partners.

“NASA serves many purposes but the main one is to support discussion around sexual assault and to provide a space where those discussions can take place,” NASA member Tamar Tedla (‘20) said. “We also plan events like Thursdays in Black to dismantle a stigma that surrounds talking about gender-based violence and sexual assault, specifically on Luther College’s campus. The event doesn’t last very long, but I think it is really empowering. I like that the location at the bell is intentional; it is out in the open where we can access a broader audience as people walk to and from class and turn their curious heads toward what we are trying to bring awareness for.”

Thursdays in Black coincides with NASA’s primary focus of creating discussions surrounding sexual assault, acouring to Cosgrove. However, NASA also aims to create institutional change at Luther.

“I think at Luther, we do not facilatate dialog over sexual violence, as much as is neccissary to address those issues,” NASA President Cosgrove said. “Our goal is to start healthy conversations and promote the visibility of issues. [The event] provokes a lot of questions. I hope that the student body chooses to engage with these stigmatized conversations, and put the responsibility on the shoulders of the administration, to take the initiative, and end sexual and gender-based violence.”

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