by CARMEN SIERING
Selena Drake, who was raised in Gary, Indiana, says she never truly experienced racism prior to attending Indiana University. A racially charged incident that occurred as she started her freshman year in 2016 changed that.
“I really started noticing how people of color were treated by the predominately white students,” says Drake, now a master’s student studying law and public policy in the IU O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
That fall, Drake participated in a memorial and march for Joseph Smedley, a 20-year-old Black IU student whose body was pulled from Griffy Lake in October 2015. While the coroner ruled Smedley’s death a suicide, many feel his death was never properly investigated. Since then, Drake has become increasingly active in advocating for racial and social justice.
Her dedication recently culminated in an event some say was the largest gathering in Dunn Meadow since the Vietnam War protests.
In June, Drake, 23, helped organize Enough is Enough, a rally to support racial justice and protest police brutality in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Drake says she and her collaborators, IU senior Salina Tesfagiorgis and junior Ky Freeman, were determined to create a true town-gown event.
“The Black people of IU and the Black people of Bloomington are two different groups,” Drake says. “But at
that march, those two groups came together. I never felt like a part of my community until this summer. Until then, I just felt like a Black college student.”
Enough is Enough is working to become a nonprofit. “We’re all students, so we had to put it on hold for a bit,” Drake explains. “There was the election, and we’re all part of other organizations. But we plan to turn it into something more.” The group has an active Facebook page that creates awareness, advocates for causes, and announces events.
Drake says her grandmother is her inspiration to advocate for what she believes in. “She taught me to fight for people who aren’t able to fight for themselves,” she says.
That’s a legacy she’s passing down to her daughter, Sage Justice, who turned 1 in July. Drake says her daughter’s initials are significant: “S.J. is for Social Justice. I want her to be a social justice warrior. I want her to know she needs to fight for something.”