By Abigail Morin | email@example.com
The Bigger Picture March and Rally started at McConnell Library with speeches by the leaders and organizers of the march.
In front of hundreds of students, staff, and faculty first to the podium was Jayde Hayes. Hayes called to band together and create a brave space, since “there is no such thing as a safe space.”
Chantel Jones was the second speaker. Jones spoke about how, over the summer, the tragedy of George Floyd’s death brought resemblances to the men in her family.Jones couldn’t understand “why the value of a black life on this earth was so minimal.”
She also spoke about how a few short days later, Breonna Taylor’s death had impacted her as well, but this time through the women in her family.
Jones became “numb and outraged” from the lack of peace of the entire situation, which was brought on by the very people who are supposed to protect the same people they are killing. Jones couldn’t understand “why the value of a black life on this earth was so minimal.”
She also couldn’t understand that 57 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had given his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, “people are still being judged by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character.” As she closed out her speech, she hopes that the whole community can continue to unify, uplift, and support each other.
D.J. Preston, the director of Recreation and Wellness, the next speaker, urged those in attendance to wear their mask, keep their distance, and keep their hands off their neighbor, because “People want to see this rally fail.”
Preston referred to the uproar from citizens of the City of Radford, some who had threatened students attending the march and even called to defund Radford University.
Preston stated that those who thought that a national group was responsible for the march “couldn’t be further from the truth.” Though black lives do matter, dedicated students of Radford University organized the march and rally.
Preston states, “We’re here because a system was designed without us being apart of it, but we’re too strong and too smart to ignore.”
Preston voiced that the march’s message was one of “healing, unity, and peace.” He urged Radford University students to ask questions and check up on their mental health and urged students to reach out to faculty, staff, and allies. Preston closed his speech by saying, “The time is now, the opportunity to use your voice for the future of this nation. Walk tall, be brave. Peace and love.”
Dr. Stephanie Bradley, a Radford University Sociology professor, spoke at the event as well. Bradley had asked the student organizers what she could say that would make a significant impact. They told her that those who organized the event wanted the allies to be supported and welcomed.
However, Bradley didn’t want to focus all her attention on allies.
“Our support should not be performative. It’s not about who’s woke or taking selfies at a rally. This is about the students and the fight towards racial justice,” Bradley said.
Bradley slightly switched gears into stating that “Black lives matter, for allies that’s a statement of fact and not meant to be political or an offense to other groups… As an educator, if I cannot assert that black lives matter, then I have no business teaching black lives.”
Devante Mosley was the last to speak in front of McConnel Library. He started by thanking those that were at the march, as well as President Hemphill, for “his comments and support towards our movement… we are right behind you.”“Our support should not be performative. It’s not about who’s woke or taking selfies at a rally. This is about the students and the fight towards racial justice,” Bradley said.
Mosley shared a quote that he lives by, “If you want something you’ve never had before, you have to do something you’ve never done before.”
Mosley shared a personal story when he had visited his sister; he would play with his nephew and niece. When his nephew got in trouble, he would run to Mosley crying and begging him not to call to police, even though his nephew is five years old, he is already afraid of the police. “The system in which this nation is founded is set up to fail people of color.”
Mosley calls this generation to demand change and to right the narrative.
When asked in a news interview, why now, during a global pandemic, Mosley said, “Because a man laid on the ground with a knee on his head for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.”