Dozens of students gathered today in front of the newly erected statue of Frederick Douglass outside of Hornbake Library to stand in solidarity with the University of Missouri and other campuses across the nation besieged by racial violence.
“This is beautiful. This is what unity looks like,” Heather Gibson, a senior theater major said to a crowd that filled the entire Frederick Douglass Square in front of Hornbake.
The protest itself was short, the bulk of it over before 2 p.m. Students planned the entire event themselves without assistance from an official campus organizations.
Alesia Robinson, a junior public health science major and one of the students who organized the event, made it clear that this one event was tied to the larger conversation of racism on college campuses happening all across the country.
“Events like this show our campus community that people of color are here,” Robinson said. “People say ‘They’re always protesting,’ we will keep protesting as long as there is something to protest.”
Robinson was one of the students who stood on the statue and spoke to the crowd.
The protest came in response to the threats of racial violence at the University of Missouri, or Mizzou, which had just seen the resignation of the school’s president Tom Wolfe after hundreds of students, including the school’s majority black football team, protested his handling of hate crimes on campus.
Sophomore biology major Kristine Opoku-Arhin said she came to the protest to stand in solidarity with Mizzou and support the black community.
“It’s a huge impact because everybody is able to come together,” Opoku-Arhin said. “we can come together and address that there’s a problem and this is just one step in how we get change implemented. And even though it’s happening slowly, the thing is it’s happening.”
Sophomore environmental science and policy major Beza Dagnachew said she is not sure what the administration could do to combat racial tension at UMD besides make a statement, and that the bulk of the work falls on the students.
Eden Hambric, a sophomore computer science major, agreed.
“If they choose to make a statement about racial issues and stuff, be genuine about it, don’t do it just to get people off your backs.”
Malik Walters, a sophomore biology major, said while he did not think racism has manifested itself in the same way as it has on other campuses, black students and other students of color have felt the impact.
“A lot of time, black students at all campuses face some sort of scrutiny, some sort of discrimination,” Walters said. “So when something happens at one campus, it’s kind of like all the black students everywhere feel it.”
However, students also agreed the protests and events are for all members of the UMD community.
“A lot of students on campus think things like this are only for black people or only for people of color, like no,” Opoku-Arhin said. “Just get the word out there, tell people like hey anybody can do this, anybody can come support.”
The event ended with a member of the Muslim Student Association reminding the crowd of the Social Justice Coalition event during Unity Week, which will feature a lecture on being Black and Muslim in the united States and a talk by Students for Justice in Palestine, among other events.
There will also be an event Tuesday, Nov. 17 at the Frederick Douglass statue called Connecting the Dots: Confronting Racism on College Campuses.
“Community catalyzes social change,” Hambric said.
Featured Photo Credit: When asked if anyone from the audience had anything to say about solidarity in diversity senior theatre major Heather Gibson spoke up: “This is beautiful. This is what unity looks like.” (Ryan Eskalis/For The Bloc)
Rosie Brown is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.