Solidarity event draws crowds, opens dialogue

With protests exploding on college campuses across the United States, the presence of institutional racism has been in the national spotlight over the past few weeks. Last Friday, around 200 Colby students and faculty members—many dressed in black clothing—amassed on the steps of Miller Library to express their solidarity with the protestors. While the event was short—one participant said the duration lasted all of ten minutes—the message was clear: Colby students were ready to assist their peers, both on campus and nationally, in fighting against institutional racism, discrimination, and insensitivity.


The event, which was organized by Marnay Avant ’18 and Jasmyn Davis ’17 and sponsored by SOBHU, SGA, and PCB, consisted of a short statement by the organizers and a photo of the members of the community behind a large banner reading “Colby College stands with Mizzou.” Davis, who is the Secretary of PCB, said that the impetus for the event came about when “[Avant and I] saw how many other campuses were coming together to show their support to students fighting institutional racism, and we wanted Colby to have the chance to do the same.”

While the main banner only explicitly referred to the recent tumult at the University of Missouri, Davis and Avant worked to show solidarity with all discriminated students while also educating the campus community. “We wanted to recognize that the events happening at Mizzou, Bowdoin, Yale, Ithaca, and other schools were not isolated incidents, and that as members of the Colby community, we have an opportunity every day to encourage discourse on issues happening outside the ‘Colby bubble,’” Davis said. In addition, Avant and Davis saw eerie similarities between these schools and Colby. “The recent protests on college campuses reminded us of the problems we face at Colby; just last semester, black students at Colby received nasty, racist Yik Yak responses after a SOBHU-led protest. Students at Mizzou and other schools were also attacked on Yik Yak, and some even received death threats, so we saw an unfortunate common theme in how backlash can unfold,” Davis said.

After the solidarity event, SGA, PCB, SOBHU, and the Pugh Center hosted an event “Dialogue and Dessert: Student Activism in the 21st Century” in Page this past Monday. Avant and Davis organized this event as another way to facilitate conversation. Davis noted, “We did not want the sense of collective solidarity to end after we took the group photo on Friday afternoon; the purpose of dialogue and dessert event was to continue the conversation.”
While many other colleges across the country have turned to organizing protests, Davis said unequivocally that “neither PCB, nor SOBHU, are planning a protest.” In spite of this, Davis hoped that “students, faculty, and staff [will] engage in critical conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion on this campus.”

Following the events, the organizers were pleased by the turnout. Davis said, “It was great to see people from so many different backgrounds gathering together for this moment together.” William Whitney ’16, who attended the event, felt the large presence also had broad, positive implications. “I was impressed by both the crowd and the progress it signifies we’ve made since the Yik Yak incident.” However, there is still work to be done. Davis concluded, “I hope that those who attended the solidarity event on Friday will continue to engage in dialogue with others on issues surrounding not only race, but class, gender, sexuality, ability, and other identities.”

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