Richard W. Collins III was scheduled to graduate on Tuesday from Bowie State University. On Monday, his university held a candlelight vigil held for him. A University of Maryland student, Sean Urbanski, killed him at 3:00 am on Sunday as he waited for an Uber ride on a campus bus stop with friends, stabbing him several times. According to witnesses, Urbanski said, “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you.” Collins refused and paid with his life. Urbanski was a member of the white supremacist group, Alt-Reich Nation.
Talib Karim, an instructor of business and labor relations law at Bowie State University, describes Collins as articulate, respectful, and bright.
Racial incidents are not new on the diverse campus at College Park, Md. where many from of the Muslim community in Maryland attend university.
From racist emails, to a noose (a sign of lynching to terrorize African American’s) hanging from the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity kitchen, prompted students to protest with a sit-in on May 10, 2017. Several student groups have been actively opposing racism on campus for many years, and have recently challenged the administration and campus police for downplaying the danger and protecting or covering up racist speech. The students feel this has emboldened the extreme racists and created the environment for Richard Collins' murder.
“I don't even want you living on campus anymore. I didn't know that u all had TERRORISTS on campus, “ a friend consoled another on social media.
There is anxiety amongst parents.
Andrea Nicole Williams-Salaam’s daughter graduated from UMCP on Monday.
“The fact that the events at UMCP is not shocking is what is ultimately shocking. My own child has experienced racially charged confrontations and situations; on a campus known for its long history of racial tension and discrimination,” she comments.”
“Sadly, it was the perfect storm fueled by a growing vocalization of racial prejudice and discrimination; mixed with young people with poor [im]pulse control; fed by drugs and alcohol,” noted William-Salaam.
Her daughter worked for three and a half years as the Events Coordinator in the Adele Stamp Student Center, where she was responsible for enforcing university policy.
At an event last summer sponsored by a student organization, she informed the hosts that they could not eat or access other areas of the Student Center and would be written up for violating university policy after being warned twice. “This resulted in a confrontation between my daughter, the hosts and their adult guests in which they followed her to her office calling her racial slurs and threatening her physically. The confrontation ended with University police being called,” said Salaam.
“Personally, my daughter became fearful of walking on campus alone. She ultimately quit her job after being there 3 ½ years,” she shared with Muslim Link.
Under the hashtag feartheturtle, University of Maryland students chronicled racist experiences that they have faced on campus.
“Native of PG county. Called the N word first time in my life on frat row at UMD,” tweeted Clarissa.
“It has been 20 years since I stayed on campus and nothing has changed. That is why I became a commuter student. It was never a place for us to live,” says Tabi Davenport, a Muslim mother of a college student.
Sarah Eshera, a Muslim student on campus, tweeted that “All warning signs of white supremacy were there, we call for action and admin did nothing [sic].”
Erica Fuentes, tweeted that she suggested mandatory anti-racism and diversity training for students and faculty. “[President Loh] told me that it was a waste of time,”
In December 2016, minority students had made a list of 64 demands for change on campus. In November 2016, they led a walkout and rally to support marginalized student groups and protest misogyny, xenophobia, racism, and bigotry on campus at the University of Maryland at College Park. Protecting immigrants and undocumented students who are part of the UMD community was one of the central themes of the rally.
“I attend evening classes and I am really worried about myself and the rest of the Muslim student’s safety,” shared an elder sister of African origin.
I keep seeing (especially politicians) say "hate has no place here" and I want to scream because people have been telling you that hate is here! It's been here! It never left! It built this place! Then there is the space we make for "devil's advocates" and the gymnastics we do for "free speech."
Advocating violence is not protected speech. “Stop protecting hate speech and saying that it is free speech,’ said a College Park resident.
“We believe that it is imperative to condemn thoughts connected to hate speech because of its undoubting ability to manifest as racist violence,” stated a release by the Black Student Union.
Before the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, African Americans were routinely excluded from institutions of higher learning, leading to the formation of Historically Black Colleges. Four of which are located in the state of Maryland, including Bowie State University, the oldest Historically Black University in Maryland, founded in 1865. The others are Morgan State, Coppin State, both in Baltimore, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
The first African-American, Hiram Whittle, was admitted to the University of Maryland in 1951. According to local sources, American Muslim judge Zakia Mahasa, who was appointed in 1997 to preside over Circuit Court cases of Baltimore City is the first known Muslim to graduate from University of Maryland Law School in the early eighties. Judge Mahasa obtained her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland at College Park where she accepted Islam as an undergraduate student.