BLM Rally | Photo by Grace Ramsdell | The Wright State Guardian
On Thursday, Oct. 8, the Black Student Union (BSU) at Wright State University (WSU) hosted the Black Voices Matter rally. The event took place on the North Lawn at 5 p.m. and featured guest speakers, performers and a candlelit vigil to honor lives lost in the fight for equality.
According to BSU Vice President Jeff Shehee, the rally was being held to promote a voice that does not receive a lot of attention on campus and to speak out against the violent acts that affected the African American community during the summer of 2020.
“Over the summer, there’s been a lot of racial injustices happening,” Shehee said. “A lot of killings. A lot of attacks. But, it’s like, even after the protests and stuff have occurred, it’s still happening. One thing that we really felt was essential was for us to finally take our biggest stand yet and involve the whole entire campus instead of it coming from just one organization or one office. This is all offices, all organizations. Students from different pockets of campus that we’ve never seen before coming together to make a change.”
BSU took extra precautions during the event to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing among the crowd, including spacing out chairs for attendees. They also had several cabinet members and staff watching the audience to promote peace at the rally.
BSU collected donations at the event, with all proceeds going to Black Lives Matter.
Expectations for the rally
Shehee expects to see a wave of optimism flow through the campus community after the rally.
“Even after the vigil’s over, we’re going to be shedding light on a lot of people’s lives that were lost this summer and we’re gonna be coming together and sharing that understanding and vulnerability with one another, and I feel like that’s gonna make the bond between the black community and all of Wright State, or even just from student to student, a lot closer,” said Shehee.
On the day of the rally, students, staff and alumni who attended the event expected to come together and discuss issues of racial inequality. One of those attendees was an alumna and former BSU president Evan Sumlin.
“I really just expect a really different type of understanding here at Wright State,” Sumlin said. “This is the first time that this has happened, so I’m really proud of the BSU for putting this on. I’m also really proud of the university for allowing this to happen because it’s important for people to understand that black lives do matter and all lives can’t matter until black lives do.”
BSU Treasurer Sydney Wyatt felt similarly, wishing to discuss these issues while keeping audience members safe.
“My expectations are to get a group of people together as safely as possible and talk about why we need this event and why we need to continuously have conversations like this because unfortunately, we live in a world where someone can be laying down asleep and end up dead,” said Wyatt.
During the rally
Guest speakers featured during the event included congressional candidate Desiree Tims, Ohio Democratic Party Field Organizer Tristina Allen, University of Dayton student Jada Brown and the founder of Black Lives Matter Dayton Carlos Buford. Performers included poet Tykell Brooks, hip hop artist Will Kellum and WSU acting major Alexis Weihe.
A voting information booth was also available at the event, where students could receive a sample ballot for the upcoming election.
Tims spoke about the importance of voting in her address to the audience.
“We are either going to stand for something, or we are going to fall and crumble and suffer a mighty blow,” said Tims. “Harness your power, because your power is your vote. Harness your ability to stand up and fight for your community. And if you don’t fight for your community, then fight for your grandchildren who haven’t had a chance to be here yet, because they are counting on you.”
BSU Sergeant at Arms Arionna Wooden and clinical psychology major Shaq Armstrong acted as hosts for the event.
After the rally
Wyatt felt that the Black Voices Matter rally was a success.
“I feel like we had a great turnout and we had some great speakers who got their point across to a lot of young people,” said Wyatt. “I feel like this event definitely changed some people’s perspectives about current events.”
One of the students who was moved by the rally was public health major Johnny Holloway, who described his experience as “eye-opening.”
“We’re not saying that all lives don’t matter, but if you look closely and pay attention to the news, it’s hard for people to say that all lives matter when black lives are constantly being killed at the hands of police officers,” said Holloway. “Also, being at Wright State and being a black student, in my experience, we have to work ten times harder to get the same equalities that a student who isn’t black would get.”