Multiple anti-Black racist and anti-Semitic acts have occurred on and near Albion College’s campus in the past two weeks, including multiple marks of graffiti in the Mitchell Towers and Wesley Hall residential halls. March 26 saw the first incident, in which a Black student was driving near campus at around 9:40 p.m. when an individual spit on his car, screaming racist remarks, swearing at the student and attempting to spit on the student.
The following morning, March 27, the first racist mark of graffiti was written on a whiteboard in Wesley Hall. Six similar incidents occurred in Mitchell Towers the next day, March 28. On April 2, racist graffiti was found again on a stairwell in Mitchell Towers.
Investigation of the incidents is ongoing. Members of Albion College administration sent out an email on April 2, promising a reward of $1000 for any information that leads to the identification of the individuals responsible. On April 6, Albion College president Matthew Johnson sent out an email stating that the FBI is supporting the Albion Police Department and Albion College Office of Campus Safety with this investigation.
Anyone with information about these incidents is encouraged to contact Albion College Campus Safety (firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-629-1234) or the Albion Department of Public Safety (517-629-3933) to make a report.
The Campus Community Responds
On April 5, members of the Albion College campus community gathered on the quad at noon. All students were encouraged to join in order to show support and help move toward change for the college’s Black community with an approximate attendance of 450 people.
Many students spoke up and out at the event led by Jayson Sawyer, a senior from Chicago.
“The spaces that allow racism to live on our campus, this racist shit must go,” said Sawyer.
To start the conversation, Sawyer brought attention and awareness to some of the most pressing issues Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) seeks to address.
“We’re not going anywhere, a lot of these incidents may feel extremely isolated, but even some of the members of AKA have experienced racial injustices on campus,” said Sawyer. “These derogatory terms have made me feel as though, even after they’ve been on campus worked so hard to bring their organization back and make it alive and revitalize it, that they do not belong here. So, I’m going to bring to attention, to not just stand with Black students on campus who do experience this at a higher ratio than other students, but to bring awareness to all the injustices on campus. These injustices for one person isn’t justice for all.”
Sawyer invited community members in attendance to write down concerns and goals in order to represent community and individual voices.
“I remind us we have an opportunity to write down what your concerns are. What some of our short and long term goals are,” said Sawyer. “Here at Albion College, the community will be represented at these tables. You will be able to write on these sheets those things and those values will be measured.”
After Sawyer’s words were shared, other students began to speak up as well.
Domonic McDonald, a junior from Albion, spoke specifically on the important, central impact of Black women, not only on Albion’s campus, but everywhere.
“The main thing I notice is there’s a lot of injustice toward Black women,” said McDonald. “Straight up, they’re the ones who paved the way. Every day I am inspired by a Black woman.”
McDonald went on to express that though the recent racism on campus has mainly targeted the Black community, the issue of racism at large, and on Albion’s community, is not limited to Black people.
“I really do want to talk about what we all have to fight for. It’s not a battle just for Black people. It’s not just a battle for Latinx. It’s not just a battle for Asians. It’s a battle for all,” said McDonald. “I guarantee you, you have friends who demonstrate behavior that you know is not okay. It’s 2021 now. That’s not acceptable no more – we have got to move past that. If you see some behaviors that aren’t good, man, you have got to step up.”
McDonald continued, stressing the importance of speaking up to be heard and expressing that people cannot sit back passively and expect higher authority to handle issues such as this – Everyone has to do their part.
“All we got to do is act,” said McDonald. “We can’t think that the administration would do everything for us. We gotta bring it to attention. Why did we do this today? Because they weren’t listening, they didn’t hear us. We lost a soul last year, and I’m still sick about it. We need diversity, inclusion. Instead of trying to do discriminatory acts and trying to always be right, make sure you get love first. That’s the strongest thing on this planet. Love your fellow man. Look, Black lives matter. Asian lives matter. I love y’all.”
Akaiia Ridley, a junior from Albion, spoke on behalf of a group on campus called The Build Albion Fellows. The group began about five years ago in an effort to bridge the gap between Albion’s community and college while also uplifting diversity. Despite the group’s hard work and undying efforts, members of Build Albion Fellows still do not receive the recognition they deserve.
“We have been here for those five years, and we still don’t feel like we’re here. Half of you probably don’t even know that we exist,” said Ridley. “It’s just so frustrating to see that there is a program on this campus that is specifically designed for that conversation. To give you all a new perspective of what our community is, we don’t feel like our community of Albion is racist. But that’s the perception that everybody has gotten. We all know each other. You need this rainbow behind me; we are not all Black. And we are all a family with each other, just like a family.”
Ridley expressed the difficulty in speaking without feeling like one is being heard and not feeling like one has the proper outlet for their voice to be amplified.
“We need to use our platform. And we need to be given a better platform to share our opinions and how we feel about the bridge between the community and the college,” said Ridley. “That was the whole purpose of developing this program in the first place to build that gap to show that we are here. And we want to share that love with everybody else. And I’m not saying that we deserve any pity or that special programs are not like that. But we just want to feel like our purpose is being noticed. We want to feel like we have that purpose. And we don’t feel like that.”
Outside of representing Build Albion Fellows, Ridley spoke on her own behalf, expressing personal frustration.
“I don’t mean to speak for everybody but I will speak for myself: I am so sick of this,” said Ridley. “I remember the time when I was a little kid coming up here to this campus. And there were people in the community who said, ‘Why would you go to an institution that has little to no people who look like you?’ And I say, ‘You know what, because I know the kind of person that I am. And I don’t do things for other people. I do things for myself. My personality would come to this campus, and be me and be big. I’m not part of the wonderful sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. I’m not a part of the BSA. But I am a person of color on this campus. And I do have a voice. Beautiful Black woman. Yes, I love y’all.”
Victory Stovall, a sophomore from Albion and an Albion Fellow, expressed similar concerns towards the Albion community not being racist.
“We have love for every single person on this campus,” said Stovall. “I dare you to walk down the street. I dare you to go to more than just downtown. You will find this love in this city.”
Stovall said that the love felt in the city stems from the programs implemented throughout the community and the hard work people put into diversity and inclusion programs. The love and effort put into these programs is not temporary – it never stops.
“If you don’t know the demographics of Albion, the community, it is 70%, Caucasian and 30% Black. Let that sit with you for a second,” said Stovall. “We do so much work in this community and you can only see the children’s lives that we have been continuing to change throughout this community. We do work every semester in this community bridging the gap between our families and Albion College. Every semester, every day, every summer. It hasn’t stopped in the fall. It doesn’t stop in the winter. We’re all year round. All year round.”
Despite these efforts, the work of Stovall and many others, as Ridley first expressed, often isn’t recognized as it should be.
“The programs that we’re doing, the community partners we’ve teamed up with,” said Stovall. “If you could only understand the growth that we have made in this community. If you could only understand. Please recognize that we are here. We are doing the work, and we invite you to come and do it with us.”
“I want to know, myself, as a community member. What is it that you want from the community that you haven’t got? And what I say to you is, I would love for you to make a list. We’ll pull the community together and you’ll get it,” said Dunklin. “But I can’t help if you don’t speak. And I know I will time things that are happening as fast as you want them to. But you don’t give up, you don’t back up. You just keep pushing until we get what we want as a community.”
Dunklin echoed the same sentiment of love and togetherness that those who spoke before her reflected upon.
“We’re all in this together. I got your back and you got my back. Just got to lean on it,” said Dunklin.
Hazel Lias, a longtime member of the Albion community and member of the NAACP, spoke next.
“I’m not going to let you leave without getting what you paid for. So, if there’s something you don’t like, or some problems you’re having, we’ll talk,” said Lias. “You don’t have it because you’re not asking for it. And let us work on it. You’ve got a community that really cares. And a lot of you know that. But we can’t do what you want if we don’t know what’s going on. We can’t fix it if we don’t know what’s broken.”
To bring the conversation full circle, Sawyer closed things out, echoing the sentiment of many others calling for change on campus.
“Write something that you would like to see from Albion College. Write down your short term and long term goals right now,” said Sawyer. “As we learned from the Albion Fellows today, some of those things that may have been on that list sent out as a request may not reflect the requested demands of all the individuals that are here standing today. And I want to make sure as Albion College students, as the student body, we make sure to properly reflect all the interests of the people on this campus.”