In response to the recent events at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri Western students demonstrated in Blum Union.
The demonstration, which began at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12, and ran until 1 p.m., saw an estimated number of 60 students link arms and surround a portion of Blum while chanting “United we stand, divided we fall” among other phrases of solidarity.
Mon’tra Qualls-Woods was one of several students who helped organize the demonstration.
“It’s not a protest,” Qualls-Woods said. “It’s more of a demonstration to show that we are united as one and we can all come together for a common cause. That was really the idea of the day and supporting Mizzou. We wanted Missouri Western to know that discrimination in any way, shape or form is not tolerated here, especially against African-Americans.”
While the event may have been sparked by the racial tension at Mizzou, Roderic Byrd, who also helped organize the demonstration, said that it also spoke to a larger issue.
“We were trying to say that we stand in unity,” Byrd said, “not just in response to the things at Mizzou. This is a stance that can even be for anyone who’s ever been oppressed, anyone who has ever felt unwelcomed, anyone who had to basically change their way of life simply for the color of their skin or the action of their own mind.”
Another one of the demonstration’s organizers was LaChelle Billups.
“People say racism doesn’t exist anymore,” Billups said. “Just because it’s a different form of racism doesn’t mean it’s completely gone away. There are still ways to be a part of this. People are still oppressed in society today even though we want to live in a world where all racism is over, slavery is over, Jim Crow law is over… The fight has to continue.”
The demonstration started out small initially, but grew into a long line of students, stretching across Blum by the end of the event.
“There were really five people who organized it,” Billups said. “We started out with 12 standing together. I would say there are around 60 students right now, most of them just joined in.”
“It’s hard to put it all on us,” Byrd said. “This is a conglomerate. Everyone put in work. Everyone put in the time to take the time and to support. This is everybody.”
“This demonstration was successful, because we had people here,” Qualls-Woods said. “No matter if we had three people here or 300 people here. We were going to show up and our voices were going to be heard no matter who was here.”
While generating student support, the demonstration also reportedly garnered support from Missouri Western’s administration.
“We actually talked to administration beforehand,” Billups said. “They were very supportive. We have a great administration. They regretted that they couldn’t be here right now.”
The day before the demonstration, an email was sent out from MWSU President Robert Vartabedian’s office saying, “University’s must stand for inclusiveness and non-discrimination… While I’m proud of our efforts to fight discrimination at Missouri Western, there is always more we can do.”
More will happen, according to the organizers of the demonstration, who are working on future events that look at racial injustice and discrimination issues.
“This is an awareness-bringing and an educational experience for Missouri Western as a whole, for faculty, staff and students,” Qualls-Woods said. “This is just the beginning, so we have a long way for years and years to come, even after we’re all graduated, this is still going on.”
“I encourage people to come out, speak up, and if you want to be heard, say something,” Byrd said. “It’s to the point where you either have to stand up or get stepped on. We’re refusing to be stepped on.”