Solidarity Ceremony calls for change

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Solidarity Ceremony calls for change

Madeline Diamond, News Editor

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Members of the University and Lewisburg communities filled the Academic Quad for the student-organized Solidarity Ceremony, hosted by Bucknell Student Government (BSG) and various other students and groups on April 14.

While about 700 chairs were set up in front of the stage, attendance of the event quickly surpassed the seating arrangements and expanded across the quad. According to BSG President Alex Rosen ’16, close to 2,000 students, faculty, staff, administrators, and supporters were in attendance. The first 400 attendees were given free T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase that the solidarity movement has recently acquired, “#Bucknell4HumanRights.” 

“This Solidarity Ceremony was intricately planned to anticipate every minute detail of the event. This would not have been possible without Bucknell Student Government, our incredible student speakers, the inspiring group facilitation by Common Ground and Posse, our extremely talented a capella singers, and all of the overwhelming support from students, faculty, staff, and administration,” Rosen said.

While March’s WVBU incident, in which racist and violent remarks were broadcast on the University’s radio station resulting in the expulsion of three students, acted as a catalyst for the University to address racism on campus, many of the speakers stressed the fact that the WVBU case is not an isolated incident. Rather, this specific event has sparked conversation about ongoing issues of discrimination at the University.

After a variety of performances and speakers, members of the campus community were encouraged to sign the BSG’s Solidarity Creed with a thumbprint, signifying the principles of equality and community on campus. Subsequently, the crowd was encouraged to join facilitated group discussions, led by members of Common Ground and Posse.

BSG President Alexandra Rosen ’16 introduced the ceremony. Nneoma Ibezim ’18, Ella Tazuana Johnson ’17, Mary Oluokun ’16 and Zoe Russell ’17 performed a solidarity song before introducing seven student speakers who shared their experiences with discrimination at the University and beyond, as well as a call to action for the campus community.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening occurred when Danielle Taylor ’17 used glow sticks that were distributed among the crowd to emphasize the actual prevalence of discrimination of all types on campus. During the exercise, she asked the audience a series of questions involving their backgrounds and experiences of discrimination, asking them to raise their glow sticks if a question applied to them. Taylor encouraged attendees to look around to better understand the issues that people face at the University.

“Take what you have and run with it,” Taylor said, regarding the future of the solidarity movement and the importance of its continuation.

A common theme among speakers was the need to break free from silence and speak up for positive change.

“The silence is my story,” Elaine Lac ’16 said when referring to her experience as a minority student at the University. “I still believe this is a fight worth fighting.”

Other speakers echoed this sentiment.

“The instrument I am handed is silence. I refuse to be silent,” Mohammed Elnaiem ’16 said. He spoke of the “love-hate relationship” many minority students have with the University, facing issues of discrimination alongside positive experiences on campus.

Ryan Frazier ’16, a co-captain of the men’s basketball team, shared some of his experiences on campus, including a time when a classmate called him the n-word. Frazier reiterated another common theme of the evening: issues on campus run deeper than WVBU.

Another moving moment of the ceremony was the performance of the University’s Alma Mater, sung by the Bison Chips, Beyond Unison, The Offbeats, Two Past Midnight and the Silhouettes, followed by BSG Diversity Affairs Chair Alice Butler ’16, delivering the ceremony’s closing remarks.

“It was incredible to listen to our peers and learn to empathize and understand them. The intention for the Solidarity Ceremony, like Ryan Frazier alluded to in his speech, was not to provoke pity. Rather, it was to empower the student body to take responsibility for their actions, whether intentional or unintentional, and learn to appreciate our differences while being cognizant of differing experiences,” Rosen said.

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