SMU community members march for justice

By Jacquelyn Elias and Katie Butler

Holding signs reading “#BlackatSMU,” “SMUnited” and “Black Mustangs Matter,” a crowd gathered Nov. 17 in front of SMU’s Perkins Chapel to discuss current racial issues and to march the Boulevard.

The combination of student leaders, Perkins School of Theology administrators, community members, students, faculty and staff all shared one common goal for not only the SMU campus, but for the world: equality of all people regardless of skin color.

This group gathered in light of recent racially offensive Yik Yak posts, Greek Rank posts and party themes as well as national incidents such as those at the University of Missouri.

University Chaplain Steven Rankin opened the assembly with a prayer, surrounded by other faculty and student leaders on the steps, who then addressed the crowd about the campus culture.

“We are not united, not together, but we would like to be together,” he said.

Forest Turner, president of the Black Student Association and a current Perkins graduate student, then spoke to the crowd.

“It is unfortunate that we have to meet under these circumstances,” Turner said. “We need to be more vocal advocates…Let this movement keep on going because there are students who will come here in the coming years who will have to deal with this [racial issues].”

Following Turner and Rankin, other speakers, including Perkins Associate Dean Evelyn Parker, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs JoAnne Vogel and Dean of Perkins School of Theology Bill Lawrence, spoke on behalf of SMU, detailing not only plans about the future, but of the history of desegregation and racial issues on campus.

“Perkins School of Theology is the institution inside of SMU that has led the way for transformation and desegregation of Southern Methodist University,” Lawrence said.

He explained that 63 years ago in 1952, the Perkins School admitted the first five African Americans into the University.

“63 years ago, people stepped forward and said ‘we will build something new,” Lawrence said. “The time had come to change this campus, this community, this country, and beyond, the world.”

Students, faculty, staff, administrators and community members of all different races, backgrounds and ages then linked arms to march down the boulevard. Singing hymns, the marchers prayed at the flagpole and demanded change on the SMU campus.

The march ended at Dallas Hall at approximately 1:30 p.m., with the singing of “Down By the Riverside.” All those in attendance clapped along and even changed the word “riverside” to “Boulevard.”

“Singing was very humbling,” said sophomore Liliana Mata. “I felt like I was being a part of history at SMU.”

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Students gather outside Dallas Hall at the end of the march. Photo credit: Jacquelyn Elias

SMU President R. Gerald Turner could not be in attendance during the event; however, he delivered statements for Lawrence to read and met the march at Dallas Hall.

“I think it was very disrespectful that President Turner came for the photo but not for the event,” senior Maya Jones said.

Turner, however, voiced plans to work with the Association of Black Students in upcoming days to address the concerns and strategic plan that the group submitted earlier this week.

“I think the main thing that the students understand is that we all want the same thing,” Turner said. “It’s just about how we go about doing it and the different stages that we go through to achieve the goals.”

Some students, however, are hopeful that the administration will aid them in this fight for change.

“We trust that SMU will do its part and enforce policy,” said D’Marquis Allen, president of the SMU Association of Black Students. “Our focus is to make sure we are doing our diligence to build community.”

The march brought additional attention to the movement.

“Maintaining momentum,” Forest said. “This can’t be a flash… it needs to be momentum, seeds of momentum.”

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SMU President R. Gerald Turner poses with #BlackatSMU. Photo credit: Jacquelyn Elias

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