Howard University cheerleaders have been taking a knee in support of Colin Kaepernick’s stance since last September.
The New York Times reports the team chose to start kneeling soon after Kaepernick began his own protest against police brutality by taking a knee. When the ladies knelt at the Howard University football game against North Carolina Central last weekend, they also stood up and raised their fists during “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the black national anthem.
“I think about the national anthem and what it stands for,” co-captain Sydney Stallworth told the Times. “I think about liberty and justice for all, and how it’s not being executed in our country right now. And I think about how lucky I am to go to the greatest historically black university in the country—not arguably; it’s the greatest—and so lucky to have this platform.”
Because Howard is a prestigiious historically black university, the cheerleaders’ #takeaknee protest is embraced rather than denounced. At Kennesaw State, a public university in Georgia, reportedly five cheerleaders attracted controversy and drew threats for kneeling during the national anthem.
“It’s not surprising that when there’s an anthem protest, you see H.B.C.U.s at the forefront of the resistance, because that’s where we’ve always been,” said Marc Lamont Hill, a Temple University professor who studies African-American culture, referring to historically black colleges and universities.
“H.B.C.U.s are a space of nurture,” he added, “where you can be surrounded by black excellence, black genius, and black excellence and brilliance can become normalized. And also black resistance can become normalized.”