Banners displaying student testimonials about race posted on campus by student org


A banner posted by Movement for Black Lives on the side of the Gatton Student Center, on Saturday, August 15 on the University of Kentucky campus. Photo from @blackatuk instagram. 

Haley Simpkins

Movement for Black Lives at UK placed four banners on campus this morning highlighting UK students’ personal experiences with racism and calling for the UK administration to take action. 

MBL, a student-led organization dedicated to racial justice at UK, was founded earlier in 2020 during nationwide protests about police brutality and racial injustice.

Khari Gardner, one of the founding members of the Movement for Black Lives, said the banners were hung around 8:30 this morning. As of 11 a.m., all the banners have been removed.

The banners were hung on the Gatton Student Center, Limestone parking garage, and Rose Street parking garage. All shared anonymous stories from Black UK students who have experienced racism on campus.

The Student Center banner described racial slurs used against a Black student in a fraternity. The Rose Street banner described how racial slurs discouraged one student from singing and quickly resulted in them changing their major. The Limestone banner described racial slurs against a student walking to Raising Cane’s and the inaction of bystanders.

“I was terrified as everybody stood on the street and did nothing,” read the Limestone testimonial.

All of the banners were all adapted from longer versions of the students’ stories posted on the Black at UK Instagram account. 

The banner displayed in the archway to Maxwell’s Place, President Capilouto’s on-campus residence, acted as a call for action for the administration. The banner read: “President Capilouto– It’s time to listen!”

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said the core of the issue is the well-being of students, faculty and staff. 

“When members of our community hurt, we all hurt. When members of our community are marginalized by hateful speech or discriminatory actions, we need to act; we must act. We can’t be a community when people are victimized. As such, beginning this summer, we announced dedicated efforts to spur cultural change and combat racism; efforts designed to take bold and decisive actions. Some of that change will take months and years. But the urgency of our work will be seen this fall semester. Our collective work is to move forward together and now,” Blanton said.

Gardner said the organization had been coordinating the banners for a few weeks now in response to the inaction they have seen from the university’s administration. Gardner said he and other members have met with administration multiple times with little to no action as a result. 

“In previous meetings administrators have decided to be willingly ignorant, and these banners are supposed to be eye opening for them,” Gardner said. 

In previous meetings with administration, Gardner and the organization asked that the university rename the former Kirwin-Blanding area after Breonna Taylor, a UK alumni and Black woman who was killed by police in her home in March. MBL also want the university to limit UKPD’s budget, increase black faculty to 15% and other changes. A full list of their demands can be found at

Gardner said he had previously given the administration two weeks to meet the organization’s demands, but that deadline expired on Aug. 3. Gardener said he has not heard from the administration since the deadline. He said the banners were supposed to serve as a way to let the university know that ignoring them will not make them go away.

“[The banners were] To make sure the university knows we aren’t going anywhere, and they can no longer ignore us. I’m here in Lexington now and won’t stop until we see this through,” Gardner said.

Gardner also said there were scheduled meetings with administration next week, and he hopes to see some final decisions made. 

“I hope the administrators give us a final yes or no on how they’re going to respond to our demands,” Gardner said.

He also mentioned that depending on the actions the university takes, statements like the banners are “on the table to continue in the future.”

The tension between MBL and the university received public attention over a Twitter interaction from last week, where the official UK account and MBL account traded comments about reopening plans and safety.