COLUMBIA — About 100 students gathered Thursday afternoon at MU for a "Racism Lives Here" rally in Speakers Circle. Many held signs with sayings such as “I am more than my skin color” and “Mizzou is racist,” in an attempt to spark MU's administration to action.
The rally started with about 30 students, but by 1:30 p.m., the participants, mostly black students, had grown to about 100. They marched the short distance to Jesse Hall. Dressed mostly in black clothing, the students first stopped on the steps, chanting “racism lives here,” before entering the first-floor lobby. The organizers declined to speak to reporters; the quotes below were from public addresses during the rally.
Once inside, Jonathan Butler, former president of MU's local AIESEC committee, led chants including “racism lives here” and “shut it down.” AIESEC is an international, student-run organization that focuses on leadership and professional development.
Administrators and spectators watched from the second floor, as the crowd stood in the Jesse Hall lobby. Butler yelled out a well-known passage from black activist Assata Shakur's autobiography to the crowd, and they shouted it back in response:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom."
"It is our duty to win."
"We must love each other and support each other."
"We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Shakur was a member of the former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army and was imprisoned several times in the 1970s before escaping to Cuba.
Danielle Walker, a graduate student, opened the “Racism Lives Here” rally in Speakers Circle.
“The University of Missouri does not care about black students,” she said, megaphone in hand.
Walker went on to address the recent incident in which Payton Head, Missouri Students Association president, said he was harassed while on campus.
“How long did we have to wait for the chancellor to respond?” Walker asked the crowd.
“Six days,” someone shouted back.
Walker pulled out the letter that Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin had issued in response to the disclosure by Head and read parts of it aloud. Afterwards, she held it up in the air and said it did not show that the administration was actively doing anything to help its black students.
“I am tired of this institution condoning that we cannot walk while black on campus,” Walker said.
For the next 30 minutes, Walker discussed her belief that the administration inadequately addressed racism. She referenced the cotton balls scattered on MU’s Black Culture Center in 2010.
“Racism lives here,” Walker said. “Not in Ferguson. Not in Baltimore. Not in South Carolina. Here. Right here.”
She also called on white students to help their black colleagues.
Clarissa Hughes, a senior psychology major at MU, participated in the rally.
“I have been here since 2009, and I can count on one hand how many times I have felt comfortable on this campus,” Hughes said.
MU senior Shakoul Bailey said people on campus may not realize there is racism because they are white and do not experience it themselves.
“People don’t want to act on something unless it’s happening to them,” Bailey said.
Bailey said he has personally experienced racism on campus. While it hurts him, he said, he’s been going through it all of his life and has gotten used to the hurt.
“I, at least, want the administration to take more action; show it more than say it. They say a lot of things, but they don’t do much,” Bailey said. “I wish they would just show up.”
No administrators made a public appearance at the rally.
Supervising editor is Jacob Steimer.