Students, faculty, administrators and staff gathered Thursday at the Hockey Rink and Rec Fields for the “A.C.T. Call to Solidarity Rally.”
The Ask. Communicate. Teach Tolerance. Committee has an annual rally every September, however the focus of this one was in response to the racial slur incident in Seavers Hall two weekends ago.
A.C.T. Committee members organized the rally to unite all people who believe that racial injustice should not be tolerated at Shippensburg University. Attendees stood in solidarity to bring people from all parts of the university together.
Dark clouds filled the skyline behind the stage and thunder distantly rumbled , as Ramses Ovalles, an A.C.T. member, began the event. He welcomed the crowd and explained how important it is that the community come together to say that SU will not tolerate racism. Several other members of the A.C.T. committee stood in front of the stage wearing shirts and masks that read “Just Act.”
Ovalles mentioned the names of some of the recent victims of police brutality including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and told attendees they would repeatedly hear these names as society had failed them. Following his address, the other A.C.T. members including Abdulomar Tucker, Brenda Aristy, Kate Hargrove, Zaire Avant, Roneka Jones, Jessica Brown, Quiamia Wells and Leah Mottershead gave a short speeches about why they came.
SU President Laurie Carter took the stage and began by A.C.T. for organizing the rally.
“Meaningful change will come on our campus by acts of leadership at all levels” Carter said.
Carter then shared her own story as the mother of a Black son.
Before sending their son off to college, Carter and her husband asked their son to remove a sticker from his car as they feared it would bring him negative attention on the road. The sticker itself read “the struggle is real.” Since her son had a “terrifying” experience while driving late at night before, Carter said she was worried something even worse might happen.
Carter referred to the Netflix film, “American Son,” at which she said she cried with the mother of a character who had been shot.
“I cried not just for her but because I remembered the moment when a sticker on my son’s car wreaked terror in my heart. Terror that you can only truly appreciate if you have a Black son,” Carter said.
Carter said she stands in solidarity with her Black brothers, sisters and allies.
“The cure requires us all,” Carter said. “I am black and my life matters,” Carter said. “And the struggle is real.”
Peter Gitau, the vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, followed Carter’s address. He spoke of his experience having moved from Africa to the U.S., highlighting the need for solidarity.
SU Chief Diversity Officer Stephanie Jirard came to the stage. She called for attendees to use their right to free speech to not say the N-word. Jirard said the word’s hurtful past could not be erased or reclaimed. She held up a sign with a pledge to not say the N-word as she left the stage.
Several other faculty and staff members came to the stage following Jirard as a call to action, some focusing on white attendees to do their part.
The A.C.T. committee is working on other projects including “A Quilt to Cover us All” and a series of events with “Ship Votes.” Other initiatives include organizing a panel to demonstrate solidarity against racism and a 10-point plan to address issues like curriculum, police and social equity for the campus. To learn more about the A.C.T. committee, visit their website ship.edu/life/clubs-organizations/msa/act/.