Members of the Ramapo community came together for a solidarity march on Thursday night, supporting the students of the University of Missouri. This rally, organized on short notice by students Grace Maute and Brittany Jordan, coincided with a call to action, posted on The Black Tribune website, for students across the nation to demonstrate at their respective campuses on Thursday.
According to Jordan, Maute sent her a text the night before the then-unscheduled march including a link to the call to action. The letter was a plea from Ravyn Brooks, a student at Missouri State University, for colleges across the nation to organize in solidarity with the students of the University of Missouri on Nov. 12.
“As collegians, students of color and believers in justice, we are obliged to expose the systemic oppression and racial tensions that bleed across our campuses,” states Brooks in the letter. “It is our moral duty to stand in solidarity with the black students at University of Missouri—Columbia, Concerned Student 1950, Jonathan Butler and student-athletes on the football team in the fight for the removal of their system president, Tim Wolfe.”
To bring Brooks’ vision to Ramapo, Maute made a Facebook event page and Jordan sent out emails via OrgSync, urging members of the Ramapo community to join in a march the following night. The next morning Maute and Jordan met in the Black Student Union office to create posters with phrases like “Ramapo in Solidarity with Mizzou” and “We Support Jonathan Butler” painted on them; these were later passed out to people at the march. Maute and Jordan’s efforts proved fruitful, as a strong showing gathered at the Arch on Thursday night to participate.
“I was very impressed with the turnout,” said Jordan, who is the spokesperson for the Black Student Union. “Especially since everything happened on such short notice. It was great to see so many people come out to support something we haven't fully experienced firsthand.”
The group’s route brought them through the Academic Building and Student Center, then out into the damp night air, around residence halls Mackin and Bischoff, and finally through the Village and the quad bordered by Linden, Laurel and Pine. The march finished where it began – at the Arch. Students carried the homemade signs and chanted, “we stand with Mizzou,” “black lives matter” and “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” a phrase suggested by Brooks in her letter.
As marchers made their way through campus, many students waved in support or even joined in the march. Others were jarred by the loud mass of marchers – one student responding to the “black lives matter” chant with “police lives matter.”
Regardless of the reactions of onlookers, Jordan felt the march was a success.
“It is important that Ramapo stands in solidarity with the University of Missouri, because even though we may not have the same issues on our campus, many of us can relate to it in some type of way,” she said.
Jordan’s thoughts were echoed by third-year student Kenya Hilton, who shared why she joined the movement.
“I came out here today because I’m an African-American student and I attend a predominantly white institution, so I can empathize with the students over at the University of Missouri,” Hilton said. “It’s important for me that I stand in solidarity with them.”
The conflict at the University of Missouri, which inspired the march at Ramapo, began with the student body acting against the perceived lack of attentiveness by the administration to deal with numerous racially charged incidents. Members of the University’s Legion of Black Collegiates said they were called racial slurs by an unknown person while rehearsing for a performance they were putting on. A similar incident occurred when the student government president, a black man, had a racial slur yelled at him by a passing truck. A third troubling instance involved a swastika reportedly being drawn in feces in a dormitory bathroom. Many students viewed the then-president Wolfe’s response to these occurrences as inadequate, and one student, Butler, protested by going on a hunger strike until Wolfe resigned. Much of the student body stood in support of Butler, including the University of Missouri football team, which boycotted all football-related activities in solidarity with Butler. Butler’s hunger strike began on Nov. 3 – Wolfe resigned on Nov. 9.
While the troubles at the University of Missouri are a far cry from those at Ramapo, Thursday’s rally, according to Jordan, was a way to encourage the Ramapo community to become more aware of national issues.
“I feel the best way to support something is to make it known – spread awareness to everyone and let them know that acts of injustice can happen on college campuses,” said Jordan. “Sometimes we lose a sense of reality while being in college, especially the group of us that live on campus. There is a real world out there, with real issues. It is important for us to educate ourselves on the society we live in.”
For Hilton, this issue is one of personal significance.
“It’s important to recognize what’s happening and that it’s not okay,” said Hilton. “Even though it was the students in Missouri, it could have easily been one of us.”