Breanna Denney/Nevada Sagebrush Chenay Arberry addresses the crowd of protesters gathered on the steps of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center on Tuesday Dec. 9, 2014. The protest, called the “Die-in,” was the first official protest organized by the Reno Justice Coalition and saw nearly 200 protesters converge to make a statement on race relations in America.

Breanna Denney/Nevada Sagebrush
Chenay Arberry addresses the crowd of protesters gathered on the steps of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center on Tuesday Dec. 9, 2014. The protest, called the “Die-in,” was the first official protest organized by the Reno Justice Coalition and saw nearly 200 protesters converge to make a statement on race relations in America.

By Jacob Solis

On a cold December day, nearly 200 students and community members lay on the floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. Their hands clutched small signs displaying unambiguous messages: “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe” and “If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.”

The protest was the Reno Justice Coalition’s Die-in, which gathered members of the Reno community who shared outrage over events in Ferguson and Staten Island.

The coalition was formed as the brainchild of University of Nevada, Reno students Escenthio Marigny, Chenay Arberry and Maddie Poore. The students started the organization with the intent to create a dialogue about America’s social issues and forming a singular place for students to practice social activism.

“We see it all the time on the news where college students are protesting,” said Arberry, the coalition’s treasurer. “We just want to make sure that’s being offered here in Reno, because we feel there’s a lack  thereof.”

The coalition was approved by the Associated Students of the University of Nevada on Friday, Feb. 6. Being  so new, the only official members so far are Marigny, Arberry and Poore. However, that is likely to change with time as some 250 students have expressed interest in joining.

The coalition is wasting no time in getting their organization off and running. The Week of Action, a series of events geared towards sparking a conversation about race in America, kicks off on Feb. 16, less than two weeks after the coalition’s official creation.

“[The Week of Action] was partly because of Black History Month, but we were also spurred by ‘#BlackLivesMatter,’” said Marigny, the coalition’s president. “That’s more than a hashtag … it starts a dialogue about this anti-black narrative that gets covered over by this idea that ‘we’re all equal,’ which we should be, but in real life we know that that’s not how things work. We just want to elaborate on that.”

Marigny stressed that what the coalition ultimately wants is to start conversation; to get students talking about what it means to be black, Hispanic, poor, or queer in America; to discuss what sexuality and race mean in a social context, and then actively build on that knowledge.

However, identifying and discussing a societal ill is just the beginning, according to Poore, the coalition’s vice president.

“Before we can have actions and see change, we do need to at least start that dialogue, opening it up and bringing more people in,” Poore said. “But it’s definitely not going to end with just talking about it.”

Plans are set for club meetings in the future, but official dates are undecided. In the meantime, the Week of Action, which begins on Feb. 16 and runs through Feb. 19, will serve in the interim. More information can be found on the club’s Facebook page at facebook.com/renojusticecoalition.

Jacob Solis can be reached at jsolis@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.