The Black Student Union (BSU), the Student Government Association (SGA), the West Indian Student Organization (WISO) and participants from various student organizations hosted a virtual Demonstration of Solidarity event on Thursday, June 4th in response to the unrest in our nation and world. The space was created to foster dialogue among members of the campus community by listening and learning from the experiences of one another.
Akaysha Palmer, reading a poem she wrote entitled Dear Black Man during the Demonstration of Solidariy event.
The event began with a prayerful reflection from Dr. Rev. Forrest Pritchett, Director of Special Projects in Freshman Studies and Director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Program, and was followed by readings from members of the campus community. Students shared their own poetry and recited pieces of spoken word detailing vivid emotions and personal experiences.
President Joseph E. Nyre mentioned in his June 1st email communication to the University community:
"As we begin another week marked by shocking unrest in scores of American cities and towns, we as a University and as a nation are fighting two deadly afflictions — the diseases of COVID-19 and endemic racism," a sentiment that was echoed throughout Thursday's demonstration.
Dr. Shawna Cooper-Gibson
Dr. Shawna Cooper-Gibson, Vice President of Student Services, said in her opening remarks, "We will not be silent about the racism that our black colleagues, family, friends, and students continuously experience. Equality and justice are something we all expect. Yet again and again we see unjust treatment and both blatant and subtle inequalities for marginalized people, especially against black people, and we can no longer allow it to go unnoticed."
"We know diverse conversations need to happen with many different voices. That's why diversity and inclusion has been an ongoing effort at Seton Hall. This recent unrest substantiates its necessity and vital importance. There is a lot of work to be done."
— Dr. Cooper-Gibson
President Nyre also spoke during the demonstration saying, "Universities are the ideal places to address the great issues of our time and right now there is no greater issue, no greater goal, than dismantling the system of oppression that predates our republic and remains today. Faith, education and sustained action can turn into progress. I hope this event is one of such inspiration that will comfort our spirits and set us on a course for peaceful, positive action in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders."
"Seton Hall condemns in no uncertain terms the sin of racism and the acts of degradation it engenders against members of our human family and particularly our black community."
— President Nyre
Julia Nicolls, president of the Student Government Association said that listening to the stories that were shared, during the demonstration, gave her the opportunity to reflect on how systematic oppression has affected the Black community. "I consider it to be extremely important that we act on the information we have gained," said Nicolls.
Erney Fertile reading a spoken word piece he wrote entitled Exhaustion during the virtual Demonstration of Solidarity event.
This event was the first of several programs, initiatives and collective efforts to advance the Seton Hall community. On June 9th at 7 p.m. the Black Student Union, the Council for Africana Studies and several other student organizations, supported by the University's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, will host another event, Project Amplify, to facilitate continued dialogue for students and give them a space to process.
Campus Ministry also coordinated a vigil, Together in Prayer, on Sunday, June 7th to create a space for prayer and healing. Students, faculty members, the priest community and administrators have worked together to compile resources and provide updated information on the University's Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives page. Counseling and Psychological Services has also compiled a list of helpful resources for members of the Seton Hall community to access.
President Nyre ended his remarks by saying, "In the coming days and weeks, please remember to take care of yourselves and help take care of each other. Let us seize the moment to help create a more just and equitable society."