Lakers stand in support of students of color during peaceful demonstration

Jess Hodge

Chants of “GV needs POC” reverberated against the Cook Carillon Tower in the center of Grand Valley State University as hundreds of students, faculty and staff gathered for a peaceful demonstration. People of different races, ethnicities and genders gathered to stand in solidarity with those protesting racism and police brutality Friday, Sept. 23.

Antoinette Jackson, president of GVSU’s NAACP chapter, said the demonstration was prompted by recent events at Eastern Michigan University where racial slurs against people of color were written on and inside buildings.

A march starting at Kleiner Commons kicked the GVSU event off.

“No justice, no peace, racism must cease,” participants chanted. “Our people united will never be defeated.”

The march went through the Mary Idema Pew Library and into Kirkhof Center, where the demonstrators linked arms and stood in silence for 10 minutes.

When the demonstration went outside to the Cook Carillon Tower, different student organizations took turns speaking about why people of color and the colored community at GVSU matter.

Noemi Jimenez, vice president of GVSU’s Laker Familia, spoke to the crowd and challenged those in attendance to question people who say racist remarks.

“Ask them ‘why do you feel that way? why do you look at me that way? Why do you feel I don’t matter?’ and then after they answer, tell them your experiences,” Jimenez said. “They have a reality, you might be the first person of color that they ever meet. Question them, don’t just yell at them. (You) can change their reality by sharing your own reality with them.”

Markeyna Jefferson, a GVSU student of color representing the GVSU photography club, said it is important to stand up against stereotypes, prejudice, ignorance and racism and promised to stand up for the humanity and social justice of minorities.

“I matter because I want to further my education,” she said. “GVSU will not tolerate racism. Black life is misunderstood. Our pain is mistaken for hatred.”

Student senate President Ella Fritzemeier also read a statement showing support for the demonstration.

“We, the Grand Valley State University student senate, the official student government representing the 25,000 students on this campus, stand in solidarity with students who protest racism, white supremacy and police brutality,” Fritzemeier said. “People say all lives matter, but brown and black lives matter in particular right now. We value diversity and inclusion because differences enhance our education, in which we are here to gain.

“We as student senate will not stand for racism on this campus and will continue to support and uplift those students who are directly affected by it.”

Jackson told more of her personal narrative and her thoughts on racism at the event.

“I fell in love with Grand Valley, but I also noticed that there was work to be done,” she said. “There’s not a lot of people of color so I know that there are different things that needed to be worked on here because we’re underrepresented.”

Jackson emphasized helping educate people who may not understand the problems and the struggles people of color go through.

“I definitely sympathize with people that haven’t had that exposure of different cultures, they don’t understand, and that’s what we’re here for, to help them understand,” she said. “It’s nothing against our white counterparts at all. We just want to make sure our voices are heard because we are a small group here. We acknowledge that racism is existent and we must educate ourselves about these different issues.

“We must come together and unite, and unite peacefully.”