by Rechard Peel, Member of the Purdue Anti-Racism Coalition
On Friday, members of the Purdue Anti-Racism Coalition, proponents of the Black Cultural Center, as well as other concerned members of the Purdue student body, occupied the steps of Hovde Hall for a second time in one week. Monday’s protest and march gained a lot of attention and mixed responses. Friday’s rally aimed to clear confusion, educate the Purdue population about the importance of what was being fought for with these protests, and to begin an era of collaboration between the minority communities on campus and the administration that would change the culture of Purdue’s community.
The rally began at 10:00 am. At that time participants occupied the front steps of Hovde Hall and the surrounding area. A select group of students began to speak through a bullhorn. The first of which was Naheema Webb. Her speaking was an effort to educate about race relations at Purdue. She discussed what the theme of the movement “The Fire This Time” represented. She said that it was representative of a similar protest held at Purdue in 1968 by African American students looking to be afforded equal rights, such as adequate housing on campus and a Black Cultural Center. Though the goals in 1968 were not exactly the same, Naheema drew the parallel that the protests and marches of this week were still a fight for equality.
After that, the educational component of the rally continued. A woman affiliated with the Purdue Data Digest spoke next. Her role in education was to share the statistics of Purdue as it relates to minorities. Purdue’s African American population is only 3.4 percent of the total population and some other minorities are even less than that. The conclusion drawn from her speech was that these statistics are evident of the university’s indifference concerning domestic diversity. Ms. Naheema Webb took center stage again and spoke of the hate crimes that have occurred on the campus since 2008. She then argued that those crimes and that type of hatred are the reason that we must continue to protest and demonstrate until action is taken.
Moments later came the main event of the rally. Purdue President Mitch Daniels addressed the audience. At 10:00 am and throughout the rally he had been in a meeting with a select group of students affiliated with P.A.R.C. and the Black Cultural Center. This group of students came out with Mitch Daniels and addressed the audience as well. Mitch Daniels spoke eloquently about his zero tolerance stance on hatred and racism. He also shared that he plans to work in conjunction with African American and other minority students to implement many of the demands and goals requested of him. Particularly, he said that during his meeting with the rally organizing students, they declared a need for a campaign called “I am a Boilermaker” that would distinctly define what it means to be a part of a diverse group that makes up Purdue and the integrity that must also come with that. He also shared that on his agenda was creating a student ambassadors program to help retain more minority students to Purdue.
The last people to speak were the rally organizers who had met with Mitch Daniels. Tyrell Conner is a member of the Purdue Anti-Racism Coalition and he spoke passionately about the protests and rally and why he was so grateful that our Purdue president was willing to collaborate. He shared his excitement about the programs that Mitch had agreed were necessary and also encouraged the audience to continue to be passionate but never forget to love your fellow human being and not to seek revenge or have malice against the ignorance of racism or any other form of hatred.
The rally on Friday was, overall, successful in its goals. The rally was a very peaceful atmosphere and one of nonviolence and a lack of hatred even though throughout the week hatred and hate crimes carried the opposite tone. The rally also proved to be successful in actively involving Mitch Daniels in the solutions to hatred at Purdue and a change in the culture that involves more inclusion at Purdue.