Community makes move towards unity in 18th annual Solidarity March

Delaney Worth, Staff Writer

The Malesardi Quadrangle was tense yet energized on the evening of Oct. 4 as the University commenced its 18th annual Solidarity March. The event, which encourages students to speak up about issues of social justice through anecdotes, artistic ventures, and speeches, saw a crowd of more than 800 students marching across campus to an open forum located in Hufnagle Park.

The opening remarks were given by Cynthia Peltier, the co-founder and director of the Lewisburg CommUnity Zone and representative for the Community Alliance for Respect & Equality (CARE), a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering avenues of diversity in the Susquehanna Valley. Peltier addressed the need to focus on solutions going forward to prevent the overwhelming amount of violence and discrimination–not only what is mentioned in the news, but also the daily injustices against marginalized groups everywhere, including at the University and in the surrounding community. The Solidarity March is one small and important step in this process, as Peltier and later speakers emphasized, but minuscule when compared to the amount of action necessary for real change.

Following her words, students stepped up to address the group about various social justice issues occurring on campus and in their individual lives. Subjects tackled included race, gender, sexuality, and social class, and were explored through powerful poems, performances, and speeches.

Genna Hartnett, ’17 danced with a troupe to Sleeping At Last’s song “I’ll Keep You Safe.” The performance “was not based on romance, but mutual support—the idea of standing with someone,” says Hartnett. “I always like this event because it’s interesting to see how people who practice different art forms can come together for a common good,” she commented.

Some students made powerful calls for further action. One speaker, Jackson Pierce, called out a specific fraternity and blamed aspects of Greek life for contributing to a culture of marginalization.

Barbara Altmann, University Provost, was “encouraged” by the crowd. Altmann said, “I appreciate the organization that goes into this event, and the talent and courage of the students who perform…what a great scene to see everyone on their feet singing and clapping at the end.”

 Jeanine Shea ’15, felt the event as a whole was  “really, really powerful. It’s powerful to hear the things you don’t want to hear everyday, but that some people are faced with everyday. I feel like I’m aware of it everyday, but I think sometimes I forget that for me, it’s on the back of my mind, while for some people it’s at the forefront of their experience— all the time.”  

Similarly, Quentin Backstrom, ’17 asserted that “solidarity is what this campus needs,” and finds the record-breaking crowd to be a good show of increasing support. “We could all benefit from more events like this,” says Backstrom, “both as participants and spectators.”

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