Community rallies, says racism still exists

Armon Siadat

CORRECTION: The Counseling Center offers its support in promoting and helping with Tolerance Talks, a program put on Housing and Residence Life. Resident Assistants Haley Fulk and Danesha Shelton put on the event.

A crowd gathered in the USI Amphitheater Friday for the 2nd annual Rally Against Racism.

The event highlighted performances and speeches from student organizations and city leaders in an effort to raise awareness for racism. Attendees also took a spoken oath to help end racism by not participating in it and discouraging others from engaging in it as well.

City Councilwoman Stephanie Brinkerhoff Riley issued a proclamation on Mayor Lloyd Winneck’s behalf because he wasn’t able to attend.

“Friday, April 25, is Stand Against Racism Day in Evansville,” she said.

USI Provost Ronald Rochon began the event by speaking about institutionalized racism.

“Institutions close doors for others,” he said. “Some people are not given access to healthcare or insurance even though they can afford it.”

He commended USI for not participating in this form of racism and for taking a stand against discrimination by holding events such as the Rally Against Racism.

Erika Taylor, YWCA Evansville CEO, also took to the podium to address the crowd.

“We will not end (racism) here today, but we will raise awareness,” she said.

Taylor, who served as the event’s host, said the rally is just the beginning.

“You may hear people say, ‘I don’t see color.’ That approach doesn’t work. You may hear people say they that they ‘tolerate’ or ‘coexist.’ That’s not good enough,” she said.

Taylor went on to say that even though we live in a nation with an African American president, it does not mean that we live in a post-racism world.

Mackenzie Widener, a freshman education major at USI, said this is what resonated with her the most.

Whether you want to admit it or not, racism is still an issue in our society,” she said. “It’s so easy to forget that, too. Even though you may not directly experience it, someone else is.”

The event also featured speeches from representatives of the USI Black Student Union, Hispanic Student Union and Student Government Association.

Between speeches, attendees listened to the USI Jazz Band play as well as heard poetry read by students and university employees.

Among the poets was Marcus Wicker, assistant professor of English at USI. Wicker read several poems including an original piece called, “Summer Visions,” which he dedicated to a friend.

“The poems just made it all real,” Widener said. “To hear peers and professors perform original poems about their experiences or their friends’ struggles with racism was moving.”

The USI Counseling Center was also on hand to answer any questions and promote its services.

“We offer several services throughout the semester,” said Stephanie Cunningham, counseling center therapist and outreach coordinator. “We offer monthly programs like Power Hour and Tolerance Talks, where we talk with students about how to handle and deal with discrimination.”

The Counseling Service also offers individual and group counseling year round.

“We don’t have much foot traffic through the counseling center in regards to students seeking help for racism,” Cunningham said. “We continue to look for ways to make this issue more visible.”

Cunningham said she would love to see the issue of racism worked into the university curriculum and individual classrooms.

“It’s about dialogue,” she said. “And the Rally Against Racism is a good way to start.”