PARTING SHOT: Use your voice and speak your truth

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Zari Taylor was a Senior Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

Writing for The Cavalier Daily has been one of the most rewarding experiences while at the University. I know it sounds cheesy — but it’s true. I discovered the Opinion section late, in the second semester of my fourth year, but jumped at the chance to join. I hoped that joining the paper would allow me to work on my craft as a writer, engage with the University and the broader Charlottesville community and speak my truth as a female African-American student at this institution. 

The Class of 2018 has experienced a unique series of events since entering in 2014. The summer before I came to Charlottesville, Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. His premature death galvanized the #BlackLivesMatter movement which surfaced after Trayvon Martin’s death in 2013. The momentum of this movement was not only felt around the country, but also on these very Grounds. The brutal arrest of Martese Johnson in March of my first year ignited a fire under a lot of students who drew a connection between the national discourse around police brutality. It was something that I never thought I would see first hand. 

This incident was the first of many that shaped my time here. During my first year alone, in addition to the Martese Johnson incident, Access UVA was stripped away, Hannah Graham disappeared and the Rolling Stone article forced the University to have a serious conversation about sexual assault on Grounds. 

The events of Aug. 11 and 12 last year were appalling and terrifying, but I was not very surprised. My time here thus far, had shown me that both Charlottesville and the University have histories with roots in racial discrimination.

The job of the journalist is to record and report what goes on around them. I acted as a journalist, finding relevant news, but also looking for an angle to uncover what was perhaps hidden or missing . Being a minority meant finding what was not being said on the surface but concealed underneath. This job was important on a national scale due to the current administration and prominence of social movements like #MeToo, #NeverAgain and #BlackLivesMatter have pushed certain conversations into the national spotlight. It seems that everything from pop culture to award shows have turned political and it would be a disservice to not follow suit. The gaze, however, should not only look outward at the world beyond our Grounds. We should be just as critical of our institution and what goes on here that will immediately impact our community. The past four years has demonstrated to me that these Grounds are not untouched by the outside world and actually, in the case of Aug. 11 and 12, can be at the forefront of national conversation. 

Although I was initially nervous to write, I found that my voice was one that people wanted to read. Students and faculty reached out and told me that what I wrote was what they felt and they were glad someone had said something they agreed with. This has nothing to do with me being unique but more to do with demonstrating the importance of the paper to the University community. Everyone is engaged with what goes on with the University and larger community. Our job is simply to present them with the information. 

I wish that I had started writing for the paper earlier. Coming into the opportunity so late in the game should serve as a lesson to the undergraduates who have yet to find extracurriculars that fit them. My advice to the remaining classes would be to not be like me and find something that makes you happy and supports your craft. The University is full of organizations that will fulfill what you desire. I would also recommend getting involved with the Charlottesville community. That was one of the biggest benefits of writing. 

We as students, need to pay attention to this city, especially because we and the University, impact issues like housing costs and employment, that will continue on after we leave. Though a baby writer myself, my advice for the remaining journalists and writers at The Cavalier Daily would be to always seek the truth. Despite living in the time of “fake news,” I believe that society has come to understand the importance of and appreciate journalism and finding the truth. I surely don’t have the answers, but my time with the paper taught me the importance of using your voice. 

Zari Taylor was a Senior Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. 

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