Students voice fears of Trump’s America in unity rally
Senior Darneisha Coleman: “Love is not a feeling. It is an action. It is a choice that you make every day.”
Nov. 11, 2016
The “Solidarity. Unity. Positivity.” rally began in a serious manner. Attendees huddled close on the concrete in Speakers Circle, clutching tea lights. When event organizer Ellen Hinze read a poem during her opening statement, her voice broke as she teared up on the line: “If you are a woman, I will make sure you get home OK.”
Although the focus of the rally was to empower and support minorities, the majority of faces in the crowd were white. Fatimah Krgo, a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, came to the rally from Moberly Area Community College. She said she often gets stared at, and recently people have been shouting “terrorist” and “jihadi” at her when she is downtown. Krgo came to the rally to increase visibility of Muslim students.
“I had a feeling that there wouldn’t be a lot of [visible] Muslims here tonight, … so I wanted to make sure that we were here in the pictures, that we were here in the news,” Krgo said. “That people knew that we were going to be active, and we were going to be outspoken.”
Thursday’s rally contrasted with other protests happening across the nation. For example, the Wednesday night protests in Los Angeles were described by the LA Times as ‘loud and aggressive.’ The majority of attendees at the rally were soft spoken, and positivity, love and support were constantly reiterated. The event sought to mobilize students to help their peers in a peaceful manner.
“Love is not a feeling” senior Darneisha Coleman said at the rally. “It is an action. It is a choice that you make every day. You have to get out and do it.”
Junior Husain Agha was also in attendance. He had been protesting in Speakers Circle for the past two days, standing with a sign around his neck that read: “Am I what you fear?”
Agha was raised Muslim in small-town Kansas, where he felt animosity from his peers. He believes this is because they were fearful of his unfamiliar beliefs and appearance. He thinks their feelings of fear turned into hate. Even though Agha no longer practices the religion, he still experiences the stereotypes.
“Racially, you could call me Muslim because in this country, Muslim is a race,” Agha said. “Religiously, no, I don’t affiliate with any religion, but that’s not what people see. When I stopped being a Muslim, I didn’t get to just hang that up. It comes with me.”
Agha has only gotten positive responses over the last two days and has received numerous hugs from strangers, he said.
“I didn’t want to accuse people,” Agha said. “I think that’s a lot of what’s going around, is we’re accusing people of voting for Trump or aggressively attacking people who did, and to me that’s not how you change things. If you just yell at someone that they’re racist, all that’s going to happen is that they’ll vehemently deny it and nothing has changed. But if you make them think about their own biases, if you propose a question to them with no judgement, then you have a much more powerful message.”
Missouri Students Association Senate Speaker Mark McDaniel believes that the conversations Agha’s demonstration is sparking are essential to change.
“We need to be able to come together in a public discourse,” McDaniel said. “The gentleman who has worn the sign is a great example of that. It’s a silent protest, but it sparks conversation amongst liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, black, white, whoever.”
Not all speakers remained as calm as Agha. Some came close to crying, while others yelled. One black woman student said that the majority of the crowd was white because people of color were too frightened to come.
She said she was frightened too, because her rapist was excited that Trump won, and because she was called the N-word at a fraternity house her freshman year at MU. She asked the Greek community to not just feel comfortable with their privilege, but to use it to advocate for those who can’t afford to join Greek Life.
She called the message of love that had been prevalent for the majority of the rally into question, saying: “Your love means nothing to me if people keep calling each other ‘nigger’ on this campus.”
She then pulled up a white man from the crowd to stand next to her and said, “This body is so much safer than mine will ever be.”
The organizers, graduate students Hinze and Jamie Crockett, hosted the rally as a grassroots event. It was not affiliated with any club, and many of the details came together last minute. They emailed the Counseling Center that morning, and counselors came to the rally that night. On a limited budget, they purchased notecards to display around campus and had students write one positive thing and one thing they’d like to change on them. As they were setting up, LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Sean Olmstead happened to walk by, and he lent the group electric candles for all the participants to hold.
“I realized I didn’t really know what to do next,” Hinze said. “I was feeling really lost, and I knew that if I was feeling lost, other people are going to feel even more lost at a more magnified level. I decided that this is what people need; they need to feel like they have allies, they need to feel like they’re loved and that there is a community on this campus that is going to support them no matter what.”
Hinze hopes that the rally provided an outlet for marginalized students that campus is missing.
“I really liked when everybody was able to get up and talk about how this election was going to affect them personally, or how they were feeling in their own experiences,” Hinze said. “I think that was really eye-opening for a lot of people, and I don’t think that a lot of people get that space in primarily white areas.”
Hinze and Crockett ended the rally by singing, “Where is the Love?” and as the crowd sang along, they joined hands and pushed out into a giant circle. As the song ended, the crowd shouted a chant:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win,” the crowd chanted. “We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Edited by Emily Gallion | email@example.com