Framingham State unites: Students organize rally and Unity Walk in response to election

[Amanda Martin]

Over 200 students, faculty and staff participated in a Unity Walk and Hope in Action Rally on Thursday, Nov. 10.

The student-organized event was a response to a discussion in the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE) about Donald Trump becoming president-elect on Wednesday.

Junior Jackson Stevens, one of the students who organized the walk and rally, said he spoke with Brother 2 Brother President Teo Barbalho about protesting, but decided to create a peaceful rally instead.

“After the dialogue we had in the Center, everyone was very hurt. They were scared for their lives. One thing we thought would be better is, ‘Why divide our campus even more when we could unite our campus and have a unity march and have hope?’” he said.

The Unity Walk began at the library. Participants marched to the North Hall and May Hall lawns before gathering in Crocker Grove, where the Hope in Action Rally took place.

At the start of the march, Stevens said the purpose of the walk was to show every person they are safe, and everyone cheered in response.

The students who organized the event led the group in chants, such as “Black lives matter,” “Her body, her choice,” “Love Trumps hate,” “Pussy grabs back,” and “The people, united, will never be divided.”

Marchers carried signs that read statements such as, “Silence will not protect you,” “Strength in Unity” and “#NotMyPresident,” along with flags representing sexual orientation or gender identity, and flags of other countries.

Sophomore Kevin Peña was also one of the organizers and said the walk and rally were created “for all the students who don’t feel necessarily content with the results of the election. This is an opportunity to express themselves and give each other hope.”

Sean Huddleston, chief officer of diversity and inclusion, said, “This was our opportunity to heal, to come together and to move forward, and that’s what this really has to be about. This show, totally led by our students, is, I think, the most important thing we could have done.”

Danielle Dinardo, a senior, said she attended the rally because “it’s not about Trump. It’s about us coming together and feeling safe as a community because a lot of my friends, a lot of the people here, don’t feel safe. It’s something that needs to happen so everyone here knows we’ve got their backs, regardless of who the president is.”

Dinardo held posters along with senior Ashley Dauphinais reading, “Where there is unity there is strength,” and a quote by Japanese writer Ryunosuke Satoro, “Unity: individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean!”

Dauphinais said, “I think that people shouldn’t feel scared because of someone we elected. They should feel safe. This is their country. Some immigrants come here to make better lives for each other and for their families, and they shouldn’t have to up and leave just because someone has been put in power who doesn’t want them to.”

Junior Camila Pesantez said she is an immigrant and she was happy to see how many people came out for the walk and rally. “As an immigrant, to be here and to know people love and care about us and are willing to fight for us. …  Because our voices aren’t heard, also being undocumented people’s voices aren’t heard. I didn’t know about this until a few minutes ago so I wanted to come see, and I feel loved.”

Pesantez added as a Christian, she was surprised how people voted for Trump in the name of the religion. “That goes against every Christian principle there is.”

Andrew Lavallee-Sherman and Rylan O’Day attended the event with a sign that read, “#KeepKissing Who do you love? Love Trumps Hate” and wore the transgender and LGBTQ+ flags over their shoulders.

Lavallee-Sherman said, “I’m excited to be out here … and prove that we’re not going to fall and we’re not going to let bad things happen. We’re going to stick together through it all. It’s all different, diverse groups of people here today so it’s really exciting.”

[Alexandra Gomes]
[Alexandra Gomes]

At the rally in Crocker Grove, anyone who wanted to speak could step up on a bench and address the crowd with a microphone.

Several students read poems or expressed their feelings about a Trump presidency.

Senior Ross Paré read a haiku he wrote, “Don’t say the sky is the limit if someone has set foot on the moon,” and said for him, “Yesterday was a dark day. I could feel the fear and sadness in everyone. Today has been great and I’m so happy this happened.”

Freshman Matthew Alvarez said his father is a Guatemalan immigrant, and he felt everyone who participated in the event was part of his family. “Just because I am straight doesn’t mean I don’t see you all as my brothers and sisters. … When I hear you guys, I get chills. I hear harmony.”

A student led a moment of prayer and said, “I eternally want to thank You and thank everybody for this turnout. … This union that we have here proves that love does indeed conquer all.”

Junior Lindsay Boyle said she works at the Framingham YMCA. The day after Trump was elected, a little boy told her, “I just don’t want to go back to Brazil.”

She said, “My heart broke and I almost started crying at work. To keep it together, though, so he had hope – which is what this shows me today – I told him, ‘Everything is going to be OK. We will find unity with people and everyone will come together.’ And that’s what I see today. … Everybody here is supporting each other. There’s love. There’s unity. I can feel it in the air.”

Sophomore Indigo Fox Tree said as a Native American, she thinks it is important to speak about native people’s rights, especially in light of the Standing Rock Pipeline protests. “I feel like any time there is a chance to rise and talk about native issues, it’s important to mention it because I think a lot of people forget about native people.”

History Professor Lori Bihler said she studies World War II and she didn’t understand how Germany “could be overcome with fear and hate” until Donald Trump was announced the president-elect.

She added, “The world has changed overnight. My friends, my colleagues, my students – I’m standing here to call on each and every one of you to be brave, to be strong and to be good. Don’t let hate and fear fill you. Know the only response is to flood the hate with good.”

Sociology Professor Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz said, “I’m so inspired to see all of you out. This is a bigger turnout than I could have ever anticipated and this is just the beginning. We have a long four years ahead of us, but there is hope,” he said, adding the first Latina woman was elected to the Senate.

“Where do we go from here? Up! How we do that in a democratic society like the U.S.A.? We block Donald Trump and every single thing he represents,” Guadalupe-Diaz said, prompting the crowd to chant “No,” to Trump’s proposals to expand deportation and terminate marriage equality, female reproductive rights and African American representation.

English Professor Lisa Eck told the crowd to pay attention to issues such as Roe v Wade and climate change during Trump’s presidency.

She said, “It is a scary time, so how do we make politics around those issues and not let it be a one-man show? We elected a demagogue and we’ve got to make our voices louder.”

SGA President and senior Ezequiel De Leon said, “When I found out that the next president of the United States was going to be Trump, the first thing that I thought to myself was, ‘What did I do? What did I do when I interacted with my friend in high school that maybe I didn’t show him that black lives matter? What didn’t I do to show him that my family is not here to take their jobs, that my family is here for just what their family is – to be happy, to make something of themselves? What did I do, you know? I thought that. Where did I go wrong?’”

He added, “But, today, being with all of you, I know that’s not true. We’re here, we’re being educated and we’re making something of ourselves and that’s something that Donald Trump can’t take away. So I ask you guys to continue that and keep showing that strength and that unity. I’m touched. I’m humbled. So, Framingham State, unite!”

[Alexandra Gomes]

[Alexandra Gomes]

After the rally, senior Michaela Lombardo said, “I am a sexual assault survivor. The hateful words said about sexual assault and so many other essential issues during this election … made me worry that abuse and hate would be ideas that we consider acceptable in our country.”

She added participating in the event gave her faith “that through all the dark times our country and our people have faced, we will never forget to have hope for a better tomorrow.”

Senior Cassandra Teneus said two years ago, Black Student Union (BSU) held a protest march in conjunction with the CIE, and said although it had a great turnout, this event attracted three times the number of people.

She added participants in Thursday’s event were a very diverse group of people and it’s important everyone was able to come together for a common belief.

“It’s not about how we look. It’s not about where we’re from. It’s not about what’s in our pockets or where we sleep. It’s about our minds being educated and coming together to say certain things aren’t right. We can all have our individual ideas and mentalities, but no change is going to happen if we don’t put it into action, and this was us putting it into action,” said Teneus.

Kim Dexter, director of equal opportunity, Title IX and ADA Compliance, said everyone who attended the event came because they have been hurt.

She added, “Coming onto this campus the last two days has been tremendous for my own processing of this, but I think an event like this allows for that same processing through the much wider community and hopefully puts us on some positive path. It is really hard to find the words to describe what folks are feeling right now and what an event like this means for us.”

Stevens said, “The whole point of doing unity instead of protest is to remind us that our best resource is each other, and in a society right now where there’s so much hate that is going on, we can be divided but we need to unite and when we are united, we will never fall.”

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