Standing in solidarity, marching for more
“We see you. We hear you. We love you,” said Mérida Allen, associate dean of students and executive director of the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center, Oct. 5 at the student-organized anti-racism march and rally.
More than a hundred students gathered after the march — all sitting 6 feet apart in the Central Mall next to Kennedy Union — with masks on their faces and homemade signs in their hands. Jada Brown, a junior double majoring in psychology and biology who organized the event, said that the students, staff and faculty present demonstrated how the University of Dayton values the life and dignity of every person.
“The most rewarding part is hearing from other students about how the event made them feel so empowered, loved and welcomed on this campus,” Brown said. “It’s unfortunate that students have to be reassured of their belonging here, but I am glad I was able to contribute that for some students.”
After the troubling events of the summer, Brown said she felt a rally on campus would provide an opportunity for the UD community to stand in solidarity while allowing students of color to share their own encounters with racism. With the help of Brown’s peers and mentors, the vision for the demonstration came to fruition in less than two weeks.
The march and rally helped make a connection between news events, campus events and how multicultural students feel, Brown said.
“All lives cannot matter until Black, Latinx, Hispanic, Asian, Middle-Eastern, Native American, LGBTQ+ and transgender lives matter — period,” Brown said.
At the rally, President Eric F. Spina read from a letter published June 15, 2020, that lays out 11 steps the University of Dayton will take in order to become an anti-racist university. The letter, signed by 33 senior administrators, outlines how tangible change will occur on campus. Administrators also ask that the rest of the community holds them accountable.
“What matters are our voices,” Spina said at the rally. “What matters is our energy. What matters is our time. What matters is our commitment. What matters is our priorities. What matters is the resources we put behind these students.
“All of these must be in line to ensure that each and every day we move closer as the University of Dayton to becoming an anti-racist institution focused on justice, inclusion, equity and opportunity.”
“This generation is the awakening.”
Gabe Gauisbayode, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, was among the students, faculty and staff to speak at the rally. “This generation is the awakening,” said Gauisbayode, who is active in the campus organization Black Action Through Unity.
Araion Bradshaw ’20, a member of the Flyers women’s basketball team, shared instances of discrimination she has experienced as a Black, female engineering student. Bradshaw also shared information about her newly formed organization, Athletes Driving Change, led by minority female basketball athletes in the Atlantic 10 conference who will create long-lasting change through education and influence.
Even though the event is over, the anti-racism march and rally was not meant to be the end. If anything, the event showed the need for students and faculty to learn more, do more and say more about acts of discrimination that occur both on and off campus, Brown said.
“Everybody needs to pull their weight and hold racist systems, administrations and people accountable,” Brown said. “Without accountability, there can be no progression.”
For more information about how UD is working toward becoming an anti-racist institution, visit https://udayton.edu/about/diversity/antiracist-university.php.