"Our student movement was hijacked"

COLUMBIA, 4/28/16 (Beat Byte) --  A Mizzou graduate student named to a university free speech panel in the wake of last year's racially-charged unrest has written an explosive condemnation of the organization behind it, ConcernedStudent1950 (CS1950). 

"Our student movement was hijacked," Evonnia Woods published on her public Facebook page April 6.   

"Eleven (11) students arose in the name of us all, garnered widespread attention as THE movement, while not allowing critique or alliance," she wrote.  "Student leaders have since been divided, polarized, and consumed by the stress."

Woods urged friends and readers to share her thoughts "all you'd like!"  

"It's really time to get the word out on this.  Most people don't know and have no idea," agreed Scott Cristal, a well-known Boone County Democratic party figure who forwarded Woods' post to his email list.   

At the intersection of academe, activism, and student politics, Woods is credible and hard to ignore.   

A Mizzou organizer of the famous TED-X talks, she serves as secretary of the Association of Black Graduate and Professional Students; and graduate student representative with the Chancellor’s Joint Committee on Protests, Public Spaces, Free Speech & the Press.

CS1950 took shape from a larger "social justice collaborative" that included Woods and "many incredible student leaders," she says.  This collaborative had "decided against targeting system president" Tim Wolfe.  

Wolfe-resignation advocates "branched off, and not only pursued their personal agenda, but claimed to be pursuing it on behalf of all students," she says.   "Instead of working with other students, ConcernedStudent1950 stripped us of our autonomy, our voices, and our power.   We were coerced into either visibly supporting their personalized agenda, or opposing it privately."

Wolfe and Mizzou Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin resigned after ConcernedStudent1950 organizer Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike, prompting support from the Mizzou football team and Head Coach Gary Pinkel.  

The hunger strike and related tactics "undermined all the work the collaborative -- undergrad and grad student organization leaders – had spent 6 weeks (meeting twice a week) working on," Woods explains.   "Numerous student leaders and organizations were betrayed."    

A self-described social justice activist, Woods is a doctoral student in the Mizzou sociology program whose research includes racially-motivated lynchings; the role of women in political movements; inequality and power.   

"I have never posted my discontent publically, so why now?"  she asks.   To set the record straight on what she calls acts of "selfishness and narcissism" characterized as "selfless heroics".

Coming forward months after the protests hasn't been easy, she adds, with concern of being labeled "a horrible activist", or worse, a "horrible human being".    Woods' Facebook readers expressed similar concerns, including "fear of being looked at as an 'Uncle Tom'"
But Woods refuses to let the worries deter her.   "I write this for every person who praises [CS1950's] coalition building; every person who praises [CS1950] for being incredible student leaders -- for being so inspirational -- so brave," she explains. 

"I write this for every journalist who told and retold the story in which The Concerned arose from the ashes as heroes," when instead they "further marginalized the most marginalized students." 

"I challenge you to think about what has 'actually' been accomplished," Woods concludes.  "And at what expense."