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More than 300 march through campus, hold justice rally

  • Photos by Amanda Pitts.  Students kneel with fists raised in the Kirkhof Center prior to holding a justice rally at the Cook Carillon Tower. Antoinette Jackson, NAACP chapter president, is at left.
  • Noemi Jimenez, Laker Familia and the Latino Student Union

Posted on September 23, 2016

With chants of "No justice, no peace, racism must cease," about 300 students, administrators, faculty and staff members wove through the Allendale Campus September 23 before holding a rally at the Cook Carillon Tower.

The rally was organized by the GVSU NAACP chapter. Antoinette Jackson, chapter president, said students of color on campus wanted to show solidarity with their peers at Eastern Michigan University and elsewhere who experienced racial incidents. Racial slurs were painted on the exterior of an EMU building and inside a stairwell there this week.

"We want to let Grand Valley know that we will not tolerate any racism on our campus," Jackson said.

The crowd stopped inside the Mary Idema Pew Library and the Kirkhof Center, where they kneeled in silence and raised their fists in the air. 

At the carillon tower, Jackson then called up leaders of student organizations to speak. Ella Fritzemeier, president of Student Senate, read a statement that said, in part, "People say all lives matter, but brown and black lives matter in particular right now."

Each student leader spoke for a brief time. Organizations included many service and advocacy groups, and professional groups like the National Society of Black Engineers and the GVSU Photography Club were also represented.

Noemi Jimenez, who serves as a vice president for Laker Familia and the Latino Student Union, told the crowd about the first time she experienced a bias incident. As a second grader, Jimenez said a classmate cut in front of her in line, and when she spoke up, he told her to go back to Mexico.

"At the time it didn't make any sense to me, I'm from Chicago not Mexico," she said. "He thought I was an undocumented immigrant because I spoke Spanish." Jimenez said that moment of racial aggression has stayed with her since.

Jackson ended the rally with a call to establish a coalition of students, faculty and staff members of color, along with allies, who are interested in continuing discussions and meetings.

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