Following the death of George Floyd and the unrest in the country, Vivian Meade woke up one morning in late May and thought, “I need to do something.”
A recent graduate of NIU, the 26-year-old quickly became an organizer for the Black Lives Matter Movement in DeKalb. She expected perhaps 30 or 40 people at her first rally on May 31. Hundreds showed up in support.
Meade, a Chicago native now living in DeKalb, has helped organize several peaceful rallies since and is working to officially create a DeKalb chapter of Black Lives Matter. She’d like to have the chapter up and running by the start of the fall semester at NIU.
“Now is the time to change things, and I was tired of waiting for someone else to do something,” Meade said.
Having transferred to NIU in 2018 from the University of Iowa, Meade graduated from NIU in May with a degree in Spanish: Language and Literature and a minor in Latin and Latin American Studies. She wanted to go to a university that embraced diversity and found that, especially when she visited the Latino Resource Center.
Thinking she’d pursue a career as a translator, she’s now looking into jobs and internships in the fields of social justice or activism.
She’d like to one day earn a master’s degree to teach history at a college level.
“It’s very personal for me,” she said of her Black Lives Matter efforts. “Growing up in the southside suburbs, we ended up moving to Iowa when I was going into high school. I was really whitewashed and meant to conceal my blackness and my identity, and I didn’t realize that until, honestly, I moved back to Illinois.”
Meade identifies as black and Afro-Latina and said she has experienced racism throughout her life, even being called the derogatory term of the N-word. She wants that fact known, despite the fact it makes people uncomfortable, she said, “because this is true, and it happens a lot.”
She’s also endured racism because she’s lighter skinned as a black person.
“It’s different levels of racism, and it’s kind of hard sometimes,” she said. “But, at the end of the day, this is why we’re doing this.”
Along with her current activism, Meade was part of the Black Lives Matter movement in Chicago in 2016.
“I was always that kid that would always call something out when it wasn’t right, always fighting for my rights and the rights of others,” she said.