Students: ‘Perseverance, unity—we are all one community’


Lou Foglia

Jerel Ballard, a junior journalism major, president of SGA and community chair representative for BSU, led students at a Stand in Solidarity event in support of students at the University of Missouri. 

By Campus Reporter

Students gathered in front of the 624 S. Michigan Ave. Building with Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden and Vice President of Student Success Mark Kelly on Nov. 13, sharing stories of racial inequalities they have experienced.

At the Stand in Solidarity event, a freshman journalism major who is black shared the hurt she felt when her roommate voiced concerns that the new roommate they will soon be assigned will be “ghetto”—what she took as a thinly-veiled racist remark.

“I do not pay tuition to be judged; I do not pay tuition to come to school and be segregated,” the student said. “Just because the KKK is not on campus yelling at you does not mean [racism] is not here.”

Columbia’s Student Government Association and Black Student Union organized the gathering, named “Stand in Solidarity,” in light of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe’s Nov. 9 resignation following accusations of mishandling racial tensions at the university. The demonstration’s purpose was to express solidarity with Mizzou students protesting their president’s remarks and to bring the national discussion of racial issues in higher education to Columbia’s campus.

Students arrived carrying signs that read “#prayformizzou” and “#cccsupportsmizzou” before Victoria Street, a junior journalism major and vice president of Communications for the BSU, initiated the event by leading attendees in chanting, “Perseverance, unity—we are all one community.”

In response to the events at Mizzou, two college students from Missouri were arrested for posting threatening messages considered to be terrorist threats on the social networking app “Yik Yak.” The sign at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center at Mizzou was vandalized in another reaction to recent events.

Noel Price, a Columbia freshman music major, said the incidents at Mizzou highlight that more education is needed on what is happening in their community and that people need to stand together to make their power known.

“You see all these people standing in this circle? There is power in numbers,” Price said. “You need to be aware of the things going on around you to stay informed. Continue to spread the word, let people know there is power in your skin. Do not let anybody take that from you.”

Jasmine Brown, a senior radio major, grew up in St. Louis, where her sister attended the University of Missouri. Brown said her sister experienced racism at the institution when students placed cotton balls in front of the African-American Student Center, referencing that many African-American slaves were forced to pick cotton.

“I want to thank everyone for coming out,” Brown said. “All of my friends back in Missouri are so thankful to the people at Loyola [University Chicago], DePaul [University], [University of Illinois at Chicago] and Columbia.”

Casey Walker, a senior creative writing major, suggested in a Facebook post that Columbia host an event to support the protesters at Mizzou and was then contacted by members of SGA and BSU because the two student groups wanted to co-sponsor the gathering, said Jerel Ballard, a junior journalism major who is the president of SGA and a community chair representative for BSU.

“I have a lot of friends and friends of color at Mizzou,” Walker said. “I wanted to show that students across the country are standing up to systematic racism in higher education.”

Luther Hughes, a senior creative writing major and SGA’s vice president of Finance, said it is important to show solidarity with Mizzou students because the issues they face are not exclusive to that institution.

“We are standing against discrimination throughout the whole nation,” Hughes said. “We are standing with all schools going through this.”

Hughes, who told a story about how he was called a racial slur while working at the clothing store H&M, said he tries not to let such hateful words affect him.

“I am more than these words,” Hughes said. “I am more than what they tell me I am.”

Ballard said the Stand in Solidarity was also an opportunity to address these issues at Columbia.

“[SGA and BSU] thought this would be a great opportunity to show support, not only for the students of Mizzou, but also show support for the people of color at our school and people of color at any other higher education [institution],” Ballard said.

Ballard said President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim was out of the country on business at the time of the event and could not attend, but he expressed support for Stand in Solidarity. Also showing support from the college administration were Kelly and Wearden.

“With such an incredible number of students of color, it is absolutely necessary that we support our students,” Kelly said. “We value who they are and support the students in Missouri.”

Ballard said the Chicago Police Department, who had officers present, supported the event as well.

Chris Flowers, a sophomore business & entrepreneurship major who transferred from the University of Alabama, said it was empowering to see students of various races and backgrounds unite to support Mizzou’s students.

“I appreciate coming to Columbia because [the students] are so united,” Flowers said. “Different races, different cultures, different ethnicities—everybody is here supporting this movement.”