“You always expect these types of eruptions to occur in places where you have high population of urban areas and black folk, high unemployment and just generally areas that are not invested,” he said.
“You expect it in Detroit, you expect it in Compton, you expect it in Baltimore — none of those are surprising to see. To see it in Charlotte, in a place that on the outside looks like the best city in the state of North Carolina, it hurt and it was emotional to see.”
Simpson said with the high media coverage in Charlotte, he fears the attention around police brutality will die down, but he’s working to prevent this.
“What happens is we have these fluctuations where police brutality is talked about a lot, and right now, we’re at one of those fluctuations where it’s high volume addressed by the media, and then the problem is that attention goes away but the problem doesn’t,” he said.
“In Ferguson, you see a tipping point. Baltimore was a tipping point. Charlotte was a tipping point. We’ve had multiple tipping points. It hasn’t just been one. It’s happening because the same issue is recurring without being addressed, and then there goes the coverage because it’s on to the next story,” Simpson said.
He said he’s received negative feedback because of the protests, but it’s not stopping him. Simpson said during a football game protest, a fan told the protesters to stand, as they were taking attention away from the football team.
“That’s not true,” he said. “There are 1,440 minutes in a day — if we disrupt two of those, does that really take away from your whole day? No. If you’re uncomfortable for two minutes, imagine being uncomfortable for all of those minutes in a day just because your skin is black.”
Junior Maurice Grier partnered with Simpson to protest on campus. He said he organized the die-in in Lenoir.
“There’s a method to the quote unquote 'madness' that isn’t necessarily madness but can be perceived that way,” he said. “The method is simply being innovative, being creative and not being afraid to step outside your comfort zone.”
Like Simpson, Grier said the shooting in Charlotte prompted his efforts to speak up about police brutality, as he has a personal tie to the shooting.
“Keith Scott is a family member of one of my friends from high school, and when that happened, I was kind of like startled,” he said. “Of course, minorities in general feel like ‘yeah, I’m a part of this because I’m black and I’m a minority and I go through these same struggles,’ but I feel like when it actually touched me, like somebody I actually cared about, it affected me a whole lot more.”
Grier said his connection to the Charlotte shooting doesn’t stop there.
“From then, during the protest there was a protester killed, that person is the cousin of one of my best friends and biggest supporters,” he said.
Grier said he never intended to become part of a movement like he has, but the criticism the protests have created has made him keep going.
“Criticism comes from everywhere," he said. "Criticism comes from within the black community. Criticism comes within the minority community. It comes from the outside."
“Does that mean we have to change our statement or our stance? No. But it does mean we need to be receptive to the opinions of others in moving forward because if we’re not, then we become just as bad as the people that are neglecting our voices,” Grier said.
Sophomore Dominque Brodie is helping organize the protests and said he understands the fight against racism, anti-blackness and police brutality will last longer than his lifetime.
“A lot of us are fighting, and it’s a fight that’s so much bigger than us,” he said. “It’s not just about me. It’s about my children and my children’s children and making a better world and a better life for them. I ultimately probably won’t be able to see the change, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep fighting for it.”
Brodie said the protests he helped organize are ultimately saying, on a larger scale, that black lives matter.
“It’s a really simple phrase,” he said. “Not only is the physical black body just as valuable as the other body, but the black life, the black culture, the black experience, black music, black food — everything about being black is valuable and it matters just as anyone else’s culture does.”
Simpson said the group is planning more protests and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
Simpson said he has family in the police force and isn't promoting anti-police or anti-military ideas. But he said people should face criticism if they don't live up to their job.
“I commend (police) for doing that with (their) life, but also understanding that’s what you signed up for," he said.
"I did not sign up to be a target of police because I was born black."