By Jamie Sapp and Jacob Tomberlin | Editor-in-Chief and Staff Writer
Student organizations took to the sidewalks to create unavoidable messages of unity in response to a set of offensive fliers that were placed on the Summerville Campus at Augusta University.
During the week of Feb. 6, a set of racially charged fliers were placed on campus in several locations which include the Jaguar Student Activities Center (JSAC), Washington Hall, and the D. Douglas Barnard Amphitheatre. Messages in the fliers included “Protect Your Heritage” and “Identity Europa.”
Fliers were also placed on the campus of Augusta Technical College, along with other universities around the nation.
In response to the fliers, student organizations such as Black and Blooming, Lambda Alliance (LAMBDA), Black Student Union (BSU), Indian Cultural Exchange (ICE) and African American Male Initiative (AAMI) used homecoming week as an opportunity to express their distaste for the fliers’ messages.
A week after the fliers were posted, students wrote several chalk messages near the AU Teardrop expressing their desire to fight racism and discrimination.
Tamika Harris, armed with a paint brush and a mixture of water and chalk, kneeled down on the sidewalk to show support for the multiple student organizations present.
“We wanted to come together, especially the marginalized student populations,” Harris said. “Having our voices heard and putting messages of unity and rejecting white nationalism, rejecting the racism, the white supremacy, the homophobia and everything that comes with it on our campus…”
The messages themselves were a mixture of protest and support. They included “No white nationalism,” “No racism at AU” and “Open arms and open doors for POC.”
“I’m really liking the students getting involved and making their statements known,” said Michelle Haynes, a junior psychology major.
Three days later, more than 15 students gathered together for Augusta Unite, a walk for unity that occurred on the Summerville Campus.
Black and Blooming, a student organization focused on empowering black women on campus, created Augusta Unite. The organization reached out to LAMBDA, BSU, ICE and AAMI in order to bring awareness of diversity and social issues that minorities may face in their daily lives.
Anna Griffin, a junior sociology major, gave an emotional speech before the participants at the end of the walk. As a mother, Griffin addressed her fears and thoughts of watching innocent people fall as victims of racism and police brutality, when referring to the case of Trayvon Martin and other minorities.
“Everything seems out of sorts in that moment,” she said. “The world in your mind just starts to rotate in the opposite direction… You look panicky around the room to make eye contact with your loved ones as a small crazy noise escapes from your throat. One’s hands slowly moves to trap the sound, hoping to hold it in. But it’s too late. That painful wail is out.”
Griffin said people are watching a new version racial violence.
“We are now watching a new version of public lynching that seems to be killing some of our best and brightest young men and children and ladies,” she said.
This is the second incident where racially charged fliers appeared on the Summerville Campus. The first incident occurred just several days after the election of President Donald Trump, which coincided with a spike in reports of hate crimes across the U.S.
After the most recent flyers were posted, university president Brooks Keel responded publicly for the first time with a message of awareness of the second incident, which was published on Feb. 9 via the university’s social media accounts.
Unlike with the first incident back in November of last year, students felt the more recent situation was handled much better.
“I’m really glad the response this time was more vocal,” Haynes said. “The statement they released actually named it as white supremacy as opposed to differing opinions. “[I feel] like we’re getting like a step in the right direction.”
“As members of the Augusta University community, we vehemently reject all forms of racism and bigotry,” Keel stated in the message. “These concepts are contradictory to the core values we uphold for our community. As an institution, the sentiments expressed by this group are not supported by Augusta University and we abhor the manner in which this group has sought to disrupt the sense of community on our campus.”
In the message, Keel also encouraged the campus community to report any knowledge on the origins of the incident to the Augusta University Office of Public Safety.
Contact Jamie Sapp at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Jacob Tomberlin at email@example.com.