They met up at the edge of campus, in clusters that swelled into knots of hundreds of people, and marched to the heart of the campus in a show of peace.
They were Black and White, Asian and Hispanic, straight and gay, old and young. They had two things in common: one—that they were connected in some way to Towson University, which has fallen under the glare of media attention because of the antics of a few students who have tried to incite race hate; and two—that they deplore the idea of bigotry.
The mixed crowd of peacemongers held their rally on April 2, concluding their protest near the flag-adorned International Walk, an area of campus that pays tribute to the different countries from which Towson students hail.
Under the banner of Be the Change, students, staff and faculty—including TU President Maravene S. Loeschke—took time to make a statement about what they characterized as the real Towson. “We win awards, all kinds of awards, for what we do for diversity,” Loeschke said.
Ignacio “Iggie” Evans, 23, a senior history major and aspiring educator from Baltimore, participated in the event, and even posted pictures from it on his Facebook page. Many of his friends attended, too.
“These students are pushing a message of peace,” he said. “It wasn’t an anti rally. It was about how TU can put its best foot forward,about how we are an aspirational [student body] that strives for greatness.”
The rally was organized by members of the Student Government Association, Black Students Union, Queer Students Union and others in response to news stories about a student on campus who has tried several times to start a white supremacist organization, Evans and other students said.
That student, in his latest attempt to get publicity, recently said he would patrol campus in response to what he called an upsurge in Black-on-White violence. Officials said they had not identified any such trend, according to media reports.
Evans said he takes a class with the student and has spoken to him about his efforts to create problems between students of various races. He said some students hold the racist in such low esteem that they refuse to sit near him in some classes and some even avoid contact with him.
“And some people are just afraid of him,” Evans said. “It’s the whole racism thing. A lot of students have not had to deal with that like their parents did, so they are worried because they don’t know how to deal with it.”
At the rally, BSU member Stephan Middleton, a rapper, comedian and aspiring sportscaster, drew applause with his comments.
“Peace—five letters, one syllable. Such a small word, with such power, such significance,” he told the crowd.
Students said they were outraged at the actions of the few who seek to stir up racial division and were determined to show the world that Towson is the kind of environment where all students are welcome.
Rally participants chanted “Be the Change!” and wore T-shirts and wristbands bearing the same message as they marched, stopping in three locations for speeches or simply to yell out their support for peace.
Organizers said Be the Change is a community of people who support organizations that promote positivity.
“Simply indicating that there is an issue or complaining about there being an issue is not going to induce progress,” Middleton said. “Action will, so start today.”