Thousands of K-State students, faculty and community members filled the lawn in front of Anderson Hall Tuesday afternoon on the campus of Kansas State University.
The event, organized by K-State officials and student groups in the wake of another round of racial tension that began the month, was preceded by a “K-State Unity Walk” that began at 1 p.m. with Anderson Hall the destination.
“We are hurt, we are discouraged, we are in pain,” K-State Black Student Union President Darrell Reese told the crowd. “We know that we are living in trying times at Kansas State University and in our nation. These incidents cause us to think, ‘Are we safe? Who can I trust? Do people really care?’
“So let me give you some encouragement today. Even though I’m hurting, I’m hopeful. Even though I’m saddened, I have not lost my faith, and you shouldn’t either.”
Reese’s full speech can be heard below:Darrell Reese
Reese also continued his urging for a new multicultural center for the K-State campus, which was received with cheers from the crowd.
Above photos courtesy K-State Communications and Marketing
Last week KSU said classes would be canceled specifically for the event. That announcement from KSU came a day after the Riley County Police Department announced 21-year-old Dauntarius Williams confessed he defaced his own car with racist graffiti at his apartment near campus.
Before Williams’ admission and apology were made public on Nov. 6, he claimed on Nov. 1 his car was vandalized. Williams, a black man, also falsely identified himself as a K-State student and photos of his car spread through social media. No charges against Williams were filed — much to the dissatisfaction of the K-State Black Student Union.
Tuesday, though, in front the university’s oldest and most recognized building on a wet and dreary Fall afternoon, reconciliation seemed to be the goal for the K-State community. Giant purple banners with the hashtag #KSUnite were placed on the outside of Anderson Hall.
K-State Student Body President Jack Ayres served as the master of ceremonies, while speakers included Staley School of Leadership Studies Director Mary Tolar, Reese, KSU President Richard Myers and First United Methodist Church of Manhattan Senior Pastor Troy Bowers. Several K-State administrators stood behind the podium in support, along with K-State football coach Bill Snyder, who brought the team’s often-seen “family” wood block, but did not speak. Myers placed the wood block on the podium during his speech.
“Our values are under attack,” Myers told the crowd. “The national tone — the lack of civility, the lack of clarity around our national values — is affecting our campus and community.
“Social media makes it particularly easy to spread misinformation, hate, divisiveness.
“You know, I’ve seen this before,” Myers continued. “Before, we called it terrorism. That’s how terrorism works. But, it’s also how white supremacy, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia work. It’s about creating fear. It’s about recruitment. Recruiting vulnerable people. Creating fear based on false evidence. And getting people to tear down their own institutions and their government structures and their communities.”
Myers’ full speech can be heard below:Richard Myers
Myers also called on K-State to decide what it wanted to be.
“A place such as Kansas State is defined by its past, as well as who we are today,” Myers said. “But we are also, and more importantly, defined by who we want to become. We need to have an overdue conversation about who we want to become. What it is that we value? And what are our aspirations?
“Take just a second, and look to your left and your right, and in front of you and behind you,” Myers directed. “You’re going to see people that have many differences, in many ways — some we can see some we can’t see. Some are inside. We are here today to reflect upon situations that disorient and challenge us. And also to think about what we should do about it. But one thing is for sure: we’re not going to let others define how we — faculty, staff, students, alums, friends, our K-State community — how we define us and our values. That’s up to all of us.”
Following the event, students in the crowd told KMAN their reactions.
“I was just really impressed with the diversity represented in the speakers,” said K-State senior Annie Kahler. “I think this message has been long overdue, because I know a lot of students have been feeling unsafe and not welcome here for a long time and I want to be a part of the solution and making it a more inclusive environment.”
Connor Philgreen, a senior in economics, said Reese’s remarks were powerful.
“I thought it was raw and to the point,” he said.
Taj Brimmer, who is set to graduate in December, was the vice president of the K-State Black Student Union last year. She said the event was a step towards healing.
“I think that this is something long overdue,” she said. “People of color in general have been fighting and dealing with nonsense on this campus for awhile. So, it’s nice to see the campus coming together under these crazy situations that have taken place.”
Following the gathering in front of Anderson Hall, attendees were welcomed to participate in workshops and panel discussions inside the K-State Student Union.