Campus Life | March 17th, 2021
Zion Lampley Brings Awareness to Black Contemporary Issues
By: A-Chai’a Jackson
Zion Lampley, a senior political science major with a criminal justice minor at Florida A&M University, is using his social platform to start an open discourse on the state of Black culture.
His interest in politics is influenced by his frustration with Black people being mistreated since the Jim Crow era where racial segregation within the United States was precedent with voter suppression and racial profiling.
Lampley understands the disparate experiences with law enforcement as his sibling, Isaiah Lampley, was put behind bars due to racial profiling and other racially motivated implications. His brother appeared to be the “typical” Black man dressed in a black hoody with a sporty jaguar vehicle to match, but the police officer believed that he “was up to no good.”
“[My brother] felt like if he was white he would not have gotten pulled over … I felt like he was a victim of ‘driving while black,'” Lampley says.
Lampley’s brother was pulled over on the side of the road for driving with an expired tag, which of course is a violation, but as a black male, he felt it was an excuse to harass him beyond the traffic violation and arrest him.
“Drenched in my feelings to have a brother behind bars infuriated my spirit and it allowed my sibling and me to engage in endless conversation about the issue. Consequently, I wanted to educate myself about the law, as a way to develop an in-depth understanding of my rights and the rights of my people, which is what I will be doing in the future as a criminal justice attorney,” Lampley says.
It was then that Lampley learned that he relates to fellow peers whose siblings were arrested and taken into custody because of racial profiling. He advocates for effective representation for Blacks in politics as he believes it is essential for the Black community to understand the power of the Black vote, despite disenfranchisement efforts.
Historically, literacy tests, poll taxes, and the grandfather clause were barriers to Black people voting. Now, limited voting precincts in limited voting precincts in majority-black zip codes and intense identification laws can deter them from civic engagement.
Lampley shared that he agrees with the notion that a Black person’s belief system is influenced but not dictated by the political belief and party affiliation their household cultivated them into.
As a product of a democratic party household, his belief system was taught by his parents who he witnessed endure trying times, in an effort to hold a strong foundation and loving environment where he and his siblings had provisions and the proper education.
He and his siblings were taught to understand their rights and to use the vote as their power, but to recognize that voting is only the beginning, and hard-work is the answer to fight against voter suppression.
For many Black students, suppressing contemporary social issues has gone on long enough; students like Lampley feel a burning desire to raise awareness and undertake the responsibility to change the narrative. Lampley hosts conversations with his peers to discuss how they can impact change within the Black community. In February, he hosted a virtual event called “The Black Chat” to give a space for students who want to normalize Black-related discussion.
“We can say that we are equal by overcoming segregation, integrated schools, workplaces, and even opposed affirmative action, but we are still not being treated fairly. We developed this illusion that we are equal when the evidence proves that not much has changed,” Lampley says.
Lampley can credit his professors at FAMU for providing a space that will educate and support “woke” students like himself.
Gabrielle Gray, Ph.D., an assistant visiting professor in political science, aims to allow students to candidly discuss current events that concern real, relatable issues.
“I have always tried to make sure students are aware of what is going on in the world. With every class, we talk about what is going on in the world concerning current events. My students know the first thing I’m going to ask is what is happening in the real world,” Gray says.
Gray praises how Lampley stands firm in his fight for Black liberation.
“Zion was never the first to speak but when students were getting off-topic he would always school students on the history to reset the conversation and he had facts to support his claim,” Gray says. “Always be confident in the information you know because you will have to force your way to stand firm on Black liberation,” Gray says.
Aven Bryant, a political science student and dear friend of Lampley’s, gives his insight into his shared experience in support of Lampley’s passion for the misrepresented.
“Mr. Lampley has my full support on his wonderful journey into law school. I think that the most important factor in becoming a successful lawyer is for an attorney to provide and express that sense of love and care for their client,” Bryant says. “Mr. Lampley emulates that special energy of love and care – you can hear his passion on tackling issues in the black community – you can tell by his motives and passion, that he will do whatever it takes to put his clients in the best position in life.”