University of Richmond students, faculty and staff members gathered in front of Maryland Hall on Nov. 11 for a march and sit-in to demand administrative action against injustice on campus.
Following numerous incidents of cultural appropriation and racism over the Halloween weekend — and a reportedly racist altercation between students and a delivery driver back in September — community members came together to march for solidarity. Amidst a tornado watch and intermittent rain, hundreds gathered for the march.
The march was primarily put together by junior Jordan Jones and senior Lizeth Ramirez instead of being organized by a student organization. The premise of this decision, Jones said, was to avoid having the protest headed by organizations, so that everyone would feel included and welcome to join.
Under the theme of “The Forgotten Forty,” the organizers circulated flyers stating: “About 40% of UR are students of color. Have you forgotten about us?”
“I’m just really upset about everything that happened this semester,” Ramirez said. “And it’s been a continued pattern since I’ve been here my freshman year.”
Regarding responses to the protest, Ramirez and Jones said they want UR administrators to bring about consequences for those involved in the incidents. Numerous campus leaders, including President Kevin F. Hallock, faculty members and staff were present.
“I know some people are scared of that language: ‘consequences,” Ramirez said. “They want to use words like justice and remediation, but I personally want there to be consequences.”
Among “No justice, no peace” chants, those gathered began to march to Tyler Haynes Commons. They passed touring prospective students and other campus visitors — many of whom followed the march into the first floor of Tyler Haynes.
Morgan Russell-Stokes, director of the Student Center for Equity & Inclusion, and Dani Dho Roberts, associate director of multicultural programs for APIDWA students, were a part of those marching from Maryland Hall.
“Hopefully, the administration will not only listen to the students and advocate for their voices, but also make sure that they’re including those voices and inviting them to the conversation, which I think is one of the key parts of what I’m hoping is a part of the conversation,” Dho Roberts said.
It’s about the continuation of the conversation, Russell-Stokes said: “This can’t be it.”
For the sit-in portion of the protest, community members were able to voice their concerns and testimonials during an open-mic period in The Current. March participants settled on the floor, sat in chairs and watched over the balcony as Jones took the stage.
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“It is unacceptable that this school often does not condemn racism for what it is,” she said. “It is unacceptable that the students of color on this campus don’t even have sufficient space to talk about it when our entire communities are under attack.”
Various community members made their way up to the stage and microphone to share their stories, including sophomore Ryan Doherty, who described himself as having developed “a reputation for being a little bit bold and confrontational on this campus,” prompting laughs from the crowd.
After the summer of 2017, a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Doherty’s hometown, he said he had no patience for white racism, ignorance or comfort.
“I reject having a gentle manner,” Doherty said. “I reject complacency and I reject respectability politics. You cannot see progress by dumping on trauma on administrators and hoping that they see the light — they must be forced to action.”
Following Doherty was sophomore Zahkee Williams, who read a poem that asked, “At this PWI, how do you change predominately white ignorance?”
Jones said the Black Student Alliance will be releasing a list of demands for UR administration.
“Administration better be ready because we will work tirelessly despite our fatigue to get what we deserve,” Jones said. “We will not sit by the wayside. We will certainly not be silenced. We are the forgotten 40, and I hope we will not be forgotten anymore.”
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