By MEAGHAN MCINTYRE
Responding to the hateful and violent acts that have been taking place throughout the country, various UMW student leaders decided to hold an event that would give students a platform to unite under. On Tuesday, the one month anniversary of the Charlottesville incident, about 75 members of the Mary Washington and Fredericksburg community gathered in front of Lee Hall to participate in the UMW Speaks Out Against White Supremacy rally.
Students who attended had individual motivations, however after sharing the experience they left united. Student leaders from different campus organizations worked hard to make this event a safe and open place for everyone.
While many used this event to unite as a community, not everyone responded with positivity towards it. During one of the chants that took place, an unknown male who had been playing frisbee on Ball Circle took the opportunity to shout “Hail Trump.” Though this yell was upsetting to many, the students who attended the event refused to let it bring them down.
“People were, of course upset, but we held it together and decided to move forward in unity instead of giving him the attention he wanted,” said sophomore psychology major, Chiann Todd.
A total of 10 student leaders were involved in planning the event.
“Eli Fraley and myself were plugged into a national network of organizers who were hosting events in response to the one month anniversary of Charlottesville,” said senior French major, Noah Goodwin. “Eli and I made a plan and we reached out to different clubs, in order to help convene these leaders together to craft a vision of what we could do.”
The event did not focus only on political issues at the national level but at the community level as well.
“Noah reached out to all of us separately to meet up in order to discuss how we could organize an event to speak out against not only the events in Charlottesville and DACA but also events that had taken place here at UMW this year that were not being talked about,” said Todd.
Before the planning could begin, Goodwin and Fraley had to choose who they wanted to have help plan this event.
“The first step was figuring out who to involve,” said Goodwin. “I wanted to make sure that groups of marginalized people were involved in the planning process.”
They wanted to keep the momentum going for this event. “I know I didn’t get everyone, unfortunately,” said Goodwin. “I’m hoping to keep showing up for marginalized groups on campus and that we can keep working together.”
Sophomore Danielle Azu, who is an American studies major in the education department helped run the event. Azu emphasized that one of the main goals was to give people a chance to speak their minds in an open environment.
“We just wanted to give people the environment to speak up about how they were feeling and to create a safe place to remind them that we have a community that is willing to support each other in times like these,” said Azu.
After an introductory statement was made, students took turns sharing their experiences about issues both on and off campus.
“Many students, leaders of campus organizations and community members took to the steps of Lee Hall to speak about their experiences with white supremacy, white violence, and their strong condemnation of the hate that has permeated the UMW community all too recently,” said senior political science major Alex Sakes.
For some, it was a matter of showing their support for those who have been personally affected and threatened by all these issues.
“I felt that as a white woman I needed to show to myself and others that even though I may not ever understand what they are going through that I am there for them no matter what, in whatever way is necessary,” said sophomore international affairs major, Kelly Lehmann.
Others wanted to directly speak out against white supremacy and stand up for UMWs diverse community.
“White violence will never be tolerated here or anywhere else,” said Sakes. “We have a wonderful and diverse community here at UMW, I care deeply for those around me and will do all I can to make it a safe and inclusive environment for all.”
Senior English major, Emma Cahoon was touched by the personal stories that her fellow Eagles shared at the event.
“Some people had really heartbreaking stories about incidents of hate and violence happening to their loved ones and other people were really passionate, encouraging everyone to recognize their privilege and stand up to injustice,” said Cahoon.
Students felt that this event had multiple purposes, it gave members of the community a chance to speak out and it showed administration.
“The first speaker called out the university and said they should stop sending emails about incidents, likely referencing Paino’s emails, and should start doing something about the incidents,” said junior English major, Mary Skinner. “It was a call to action to UMW.”
Goodwin said the “UMW Speaks Out Against White Supremacy” event will not be a standalone movement.
“This is only the first of many events,” said Goodwin. “UMW has shown that, as a campus, we will not stand for bigotry and intolerance on our campus and we will continue to work together to dismantle white supremacy on our campus.”
Some pronouns in this article have been changed. An earlier version of this article misgendered Noah Goodwin.