Students lead peaceful event for justice
Messages of peace, as well as respect and unity, filled the campus of Radford University on Saturday, September 19, 2020, during The Bigger Picture March and Rally, a student-led and student-organized event. Hundreds of students, faculty and staff followed University COVID-19 guidelines by physically distancing and wearing masks, while simultaneously addressing social injustice and the need for societal change.
Devante Mosley, vice president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council and a member of Radford Student Programming and Campus Events (R-SPaCE), helped organize the event and was also a featured speaker.
“It is up to us as the next generation to provoke change,” Mosley said. “No, to demand change. To dismantle the social construct placed upon us over 400 years ago. To rewrite the narrative.”
Circles marked the lawn in front of McConnell Library, providing attendees with personalized areas where they could stand, while listening to messages from student organizers, faculty and staff about a brighter future with acceptance and equality.
“We’re here because Radford University is a place where we learn to celebrate differences, have civil and intellectual discourse and lead people to a better future,” said D.J. Preston, director of Student Recreation and Wellness. Preston encouraged students to walk tall and be brave with the challenges they face in life. “Fear and miseducation have misled and misinformed, but this message is one of healing, unity and peace.”
Dedicated members of the Radford family, including President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., as well as faculty and staff, joined students in the march and rally to demonstrate their strong support for students. Attendees marched together from McConnell Library through campus to Moffett Lawn with a unified goal of shedding light on social injustice and stopping racism. The march included a diverse array of students from athletics and a variety of clubs, organizations and class standings. Representatives from various divisions and departments across the University also marched in solidarity, many wearing yellow shirts to show their support and care for the student body as allies.
Stephanie Bradley, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology, marched and spoke at the event.
“You epitomize the very best qualities of what it means to be a student. You are acting for yourselves, and you are independent critical thinkers and your lives matter. We are happy to follow you anywhere,” Bradley said. She was asked to speak by student organizers on behalf of those who stand with individuals facing discrimination. As such, Bradley took a moment to specifically address those in the audience who were attending as allies.
“You and your support are valuable and needed in the fight for racial justice and eradicating racism,” she affirmed.
The event was co-sponsored by several campus organizations, including Diversity Awareness Programming, the NAACP, Lady RUs, National Pan-Hellenic Council, Black Student Alliance and R-SPaCE. To ensure it was held in the safest format possible due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic, the University assisted student organizers with the event structure and logistical details.
The students who planned the event pledged to maintain a peaceful, respectful and safe environment with public health guidelines in place. They maintained that commitment by setting an example for how individuals who care deeply about issues can share their experiences and opinions while maintaining care and compassion for one another.