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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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Students gather at open mic event to discuss racist actions on campus

<p>Students stand in the Forum at "More Than Just a Message," an open mic protest aimed at denouncing racist actions that occur on campus. The event took place on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020.</p>

Students stand in the Forum at "More Than Just a Message," an open mic protest aimed at denouncing racist actions that occur on campus. The event took place on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020.

Twenty-one students and one faculty member spoke in front of a crowd that filled the Forum at "More Than Just a Message," Tuesday's open mic protest aimed at denouncing racist actions that occur on campus, in light of recent events.

“I pray, and I hope that the people, or the person -- whoever it is that wrote those words, that had the guts to write those -- that you are here,” said senior Lina Tori Jan, organizer of the open mic discussion. “And to this day I will still call you brother, and I will call you sister, because I have hope that your hearts will change.”

Students gave statements that called out apathy and the lack of support within the student body and administration, while encouraging unity and love within the University of Richmond community.

Sophomore Sandeep Kumar opened the event with a poem pointing out hypocrisy in the chant “We are UR.” 

“We are, UR. We breathe and live diversity. Yeah, sure. Diversity, 10% international students, people from many states, people of color here and there, sprinkle, sprinkle in the white twinkle,” he said. 

In his statement, Kumar also questioned the lack of action from his friends.

“Why are you so quiet? I don't get your logic. Is humanity so hard to think through?” he said. "I confronted some of my friends and asked them, 'Hello, why have you not been speaking up? Why have you not been posting? Why are you still saying that the party over the weekend was great? 

"'Why are you happy and not sad? Why are you not bothered?'”

Tori Jan — along with other students who spoke at the event -- voiced her disappointment at the speed of action from the administration, referencing the "community meeting" that will take place on Thursday, Jan. 30.

“I'm thankful that President Crutcher has moved to hold a community event on Thursday to hear our experiences, and our stresses and our concerns,” she said. “But again, to administrators, that community event needed to happen on Friday, so events like Saturday, Sunday night could have been stopped.”  

Tori Jan also stated the ineffectiveness of the “long-ass email” students received from Crutcher after students discovered the first incident of racist graffiti.

Crutcher stood among the members of the crowd as the students spoke.

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President Ronald A. Crutcher stands among the crowd at "More Than Just a Message," an open mic protest aimed at denouncing racist actions that occur on campus. The event took place on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020.

Sophomore Maha Hassan, one of the students whose doors were vandalized in the racist attacks, made a call to unity among students of color and white students.

“Everyone needs to come together, and just be there for one another because this is not the time to be more divided. The world has enough of that right now,” she said. “And all I ask from everybody is just to be kind to one another.”

Political science professor Monti Datta led the crowd in a mindfulness exercise to conclude Tuesday's event.

“This problem that we're facing is ultimately not a black problem. It's ultimately not a white problem. It's ultimately a human problem,” he said. “And I think the only thing that can really solve this problem of hate is love.” 

After the event ended, multiple attendants stayed to thank the speakers for sharing their experiences and to offer support.

“I’m really thankful to [Tori Jan] for organizing it and everyone else who was a part of it, such as Dr. Datta,” sophomore Kristen Starks said. “I think it was really fruitful and it honestly was far better attended than I expected.”   

Tori Jan said she had felt compelled to organize the event to allow students to process the racist incidents that had happened last weekend and to raise awareness of the incidents.

“The frustration that things were happening behind the scenes, behind closed doors," she said. "Our campus needed to come together in a visible space for everybody to share that they are in this with us.”

The Office of Common Ground and the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement helped Tori Jan organize the event.

“It wouldn't have been possible without the help of many people at Common Ground, especially Lisa Miles. We literally don't deserve her,” Tori Jan said.

Editor-in-chief Jocelyn Grzeszczak contributed to the story. 

Contact news writer Jackie Llanos Hernandez at jackie.llanoshernandez@richmond.edu.

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