On April 11, well over 100 campus and community members gathered in front of Albion College’s campus rock to hold a demonstration meant to unite the college community.
The peaceful demonstration arose after two objects were found on campus that sparked concerns of racism towards black and Asian Albion students.
On Friday, April 5, a cardboard box with the phrase “KKK” written on it was found propped outside a male first-year dormitory room. The phrase is commonly associated as the acronym for the Ku Klux Klan, an American white supremacist group grounded on anti-black, anti-Jewish and anti-immigrant beliefs. At least one student within the room the box was propped by was black.
Per an Albion College email, the same student had found racist words written on his whiteboard outside his dorm room earlier in the semester. Campus Safety and Albion Public Safety were notified and are investigating both events.
That same day, a sweatshirt with Albion’s Asian Awareness Group’s logo was found spray-painted over in the Umbrella House. Only the logo had spray paint on it.
Many students took to social media to spread awareness of the objects, calling the markings on them racist.
Six days after the two events, Asian Awareness Group, Black Student Alliance, the Interfraternity Council, Umbrella House and Greek life held the unity demonstration on the campus quad. Campus and community members took turns spray-painting the rock, labeling it with a “ONEALBION” hashtag. Some members also spoke on the events and how to move forward.
Some demonstration participants shared their thoughts on the event.
Morgan Armstrong, sophomore from Albion and co-president of Black Student Alliance
“I’m super grateful that [a] number of people that don’t look like black students or Asian students [came]. It’s white students, it’s latinx students, it’s everyone. There’s staff and there’s students who want to stand up against the hate and discrimination that’s been taking place on campus. It’s inspiring because it shows that so many people are passionate about making this a safe place for everyone, because when we accept the fact that this campus is growing in its diversity, we realize that all of the skills and backgrounds that people bring with them which contributes to a more fruitful campus and a more abundant campus.”
Maryam Syed (left), senior from Troy, Michigan
“It feels good that we saw a lot of people from different communities show up, which is great — seeing Greek life and the faculty response and feeling supported. I think it’s great that we can all come together and show support. Because a question a lot of people have is like, ‘How can we support students affected by this?’ and I think this is a great way to show that you care.”
Tanya Jagdish (center), first-year from Bangalore, India, and outgoing public relations manager of Asian Awareness Group
“Just showing up means so much to the Umbrella organizations.”
Lynette Gumbleton (right), senior from Kalamazoo and Student Senator
“I’m glad it’s not all focused on a punitive response to one student. While I think that is important — and if we knew who they were, definitely — this stuff is gonna happen if we protest it or not. This is going to keep happening, so coming up with concrete ways to shift the school culture to make it less acceptable is really important.”
Trisha Franzen, professor of women’s and gender studies (not pictured, as requested)
“Everytime something like this happens you hope it will be the last time something like this happens, but you know it’s not gonna be. I think the important thing is that we keep learning that we need to respond both to the individuals and to the community as quickly as possible and as effectively as possible. I think we are still working on that. I think we are still learning how to do that. I’ve been here quite a while and I’m just hoping that we do find effective ways to educate everybody. Both so that these things don’t happen but also how to intervene, and I think that’s what some of our students are pushing us to do. I know there is going to be a gathering Sunday night and other efforts, too. I really support and applaud all of our students who have taken the leadership on this. It was also really important to me too, since I’m a member of the [city] community also, to see other community members here.”
Dria Grant, sophomore from Clinton Township, Michigan, and communications chair of Black Student Alliance
“I felt that this was very beautiful. It warmed my heart. It was so great for the turnout because planning this to begin with, speaking with Isaac who’s the president of Umbrella, it seemed like it was just a thought in the air. The fact that we planned this in less than a week, we executed it and it exceeded our expectations and then some. I am so very grateful that we have so many allies on our campus and it’s not just people who look like us. There’s also people who do not look like us at all or cannot even necessarily say they experience the same things we experience, but at least we all know we have a friend in each other. We can all lean on each other.”
Hazel Lias, community member
“Whenever needed and whatever is needed. We’ve got you.”
UPDATE: 4/16/2019, 9:22 a.m.: On Monday, April 15, Campus Safety emailed all students, stating that the same student who reported a box reading “KKK” outside his door reported a second event. Campus Safety said he found racist language written on the whiteboard on the door of his dorm room. The student responsible for the language was identified and removed from campus. It is as-yet unclear whether the student was expelled or if the student was responsible for previous reported incidents.
Beau Brockett Jr. contributed to this article.