Most college students after graduation are spending their summer applying for jobs or trying to figure out what their next steps in life will be. Aram Sahakyan (of Armenian descent) is a recent graduate of Colorado State University with a Major in Philosophy and a Double Minor in Legal Studies and Global Studies.
Aram decided after graduation, he wanted to make a difference. At times, while at CSU, he experienced racial division. After witnessing reaction throughout the nation to the George Floyd killing by police in Minneapolis, he decided it was time.
Aram had an idea for a peaceful march to bring solidarity to Fort Collins. “I want to give a better image to protestors nationwide and a voice to Black people and people of color in Fort Collins who may feel they weren’t safe or important,” he said.
He began plans to organize a peaceful march. Aram created some posts on social media and asked his friends to share them. He did his best to make it clear in his posts that violence would not be permitted and that masks and social distancing were required. Within 48 hours, on June 2, several thousand people were on their way to Old Town Fort Collins.
“I was surprised at the numbers of people who showed up,” Aram said. “I didn’t exhaust every avenue to promote this and heard from people who wished they could have been there (but didn’t know about it).”
The peaceful march started at Colorado State University’s Administration building and moved on to City Hall. Marchers chanted “Say HIs Name – George Floyd,” and “I can’t breathe,” while raising their fists into the air. There were moments of silence in observance of George Floyd’s death and speeches from people who have recently experienced hate. Then, the demonstration moved to Old Town Square.
Although the murder didn’t happen in Fort Collins, Aram felt that locally we needed to understand and recognize how people throughout the country are feeling right now.
“While we have progressive individuals and a progressive Chief of Police, several racist incidents have happened at CSU in recent years and there have been reports of discrimination against people of color in Fort Collins,” he said.
“I wanted to create a sense of solidarity in the Fort Collins community to create a safe place for black and people of color to be heard,” he said.
The demonstration was emotional, and as is the case with marches, local police were on hand. “I was extremely pleased that the Fort Collins police showed solidarity and respect while remaining present.”
Aram says one of his most memorable moments during the march was when everyone laid on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs and observed nine minutes of silence — the amount of time it took George Floyd to suffocate. He witnessed older people in a nearby store who reacted in solidarity with the group.
He plans to organize at least one more peaceful march similar to the march on June 2, peaceful and civil, but this time with community leaders.
Real change comes from us, Aram says. “We need first to change our hearts — then we have to change the hearts of our loved ones — and then we’re ready to change the world.”
Equity & Inclusion, City of Fort Collins
In 2017, the City of Fort Collins became a member of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a membership network of government entities to advance racial equity and equitable outcomes for all.
Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Colorado State University
Through community collaboration, CSU provides leadership, accountability, and education to advance an inclusive university culture that prioritizes equity at individual, organizational, and structural levels.
Black/African American Cultural Center, Colorado State University
he Black/African American Cultural Center promotes a diverse, inclusive campus environment and serves as a resource to the campus community as well as surrounding communities through academic, professional, cultural, and personal development programs that embrace Black and African American experiences. The primary goal is to enhance the overall college experience so that students achieve academically and are able to compete in a global society.
Diversity Solutions Group
Diversity Solutions Group is a consulting, and training firm focused on assisting the public, academic, corporate, and not-for-profit organizations in reaching their diversity and leadership goals.
Diverse Fort Collins
Diverse Fort Collins is a volunteer-driven community project that connects people with resources and each other. Their website has all things related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. They host book discussions and events to cultivate friendships and increase understanding among community members.
New Eyes Village
New Eyes Village’s mission is to rethink spirituality as health equity and spatial justice for marginalized communities and cultures looking to exercise their faith in the “Spirit”.