"To think about the most ideal world means that we have to unthink our own knowledge we currently have ... to try to unthink all bias, unthink all racism, unthink all 'isms' and think about what is that utopian world that we're looking at," Brandi Stone, the director of African American Student Services (AASS) at the University of New Mexico, said about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Protests for the movement began anew after George Floyd's murder at the hands of a police officer on May 25. Stone said that this was a tipping point for the white community but "Black and brown bodies-- we've already experienced the tipping point."
AASS released a statement on May 31 that said the organization stands with the Black Lives Matter movement. AASS stayed true to its core, as the organization "was created in the late 1960s as a result of Black student activism at UNM," according to the AASS website.
The Black Lives Matter movement has had a decreasing amount of media appearances, according to Stone. To combat this, AASS will be featuring a new event on June 24: "Social Media Activism: When the Hashtag Stops Trending."
"What we need is for everybody else to keep that same energy after the (Black Lives Matter) hashtag has stopped trending, because we have continuously kept this energy going," Stone said.
Stone said the nation needs to focus on changing its policies and learning from the past.
"Our country was literally built on stolen land by slave labor and perhaps kept up and beautified by our undocumented brothers and sisters," Stone said.
Many news outlets are mistakenly focusing on looting and rioting rather than the goals of the protests, according to Stone, which clouds the end goal that people are trying to achieve.
"We are currently facing the COVID-19 pandemic which has disproportionately affected our community," the AASS statement read. "But we are also in the full swing of another pandemic that continues to sweep through our country — the growing threats brought upon us by white nationalism and white supremacy."
There are concerns about a second wave of COVID-19 with the large gatherings intrinsic to protests.
"The challenge becomes the potential spread (of COVID-19) in large events," Stone said. "So I think that's the balance — in particular for the Black community — as we're protesting, is that COVID-19 is still occurring and the Black community is disproportionately being affected by it."
Stone said protesters should continue to wear masks as well as adhere to social distancing guidelines when possible. However, she also said it's imperative that people stay in groups and have their phones ready to record.
"It's a challenging time right now, and it's hard to prioritize one over the other," Stone said.
Stone talked about how poorly the nation reacted to Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem at a National Football League game on Sep. 1, 2016, which inspired other peaceful protests with kneeling as well.
"Kneeling silently ... We had so many reactions, and that was 'you need to do it a different way,' right? And so now people are choosing to go out and protest, and it's 'you need to do it a different way,'" Stone said.
AASS has featured various social media events throughout the month of June, including a national virtual town hall meeting, an Instagram Live about anti-Blackness in the media and more.
Michael Gerard Mason, an associate dean at the University of Virginia and the director of the school's Black Cultural Center, said in the town hall meeting that students should be depending on their college's ethnic center resource centers now more than ever.
"In our office, our mission is to cultivate Black excellence through educational discourse and leadership development," Stone said. "In having the conversation, such as our speaker series, we're giving students the tools to get involved, and they are products of UNM."
Stone encouraged the media to shift their point of view in covering protests going forward —she said rather than focusing on the "what," it is time to focus on the "why."
Megan Gleason is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @fabflutist2716