Rikiesha Pierce, a senior majoring in sociology, stood in front of Tommy Trojan and addressed the crowd assembled in front of her.
“I am not a token. I belong to my community,” she declared. “I will fight for my community with tooth and nail and fists.”
Pierce was among approximately 60 students who gathered for the Black Student Assembly’s March on Trousdale on Tuesday. The organization held the event to highlight student causes and the efforts being made to create change on campus. The March on Trousdale also concluded BSA’s celebrations honoring Black History Month.
The march coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech.
Students marched from the Gavin Herbert Plaza Fountain at approximately 11:15 a.m. and stopped in front of Tommy Trojan. As students marched they chanted, “People united will never be divided” and “United we stand; united we fall.”
Though the BSA hosted the event, many student organizations presented speeches in front of the crowd. Representatives from the Women’s Student Assembly, Latina/o Student Assembly and the Queer and Ally Student Assembly came to show support.
Students held signs representing their different political and civic causes on campus. BSA also encouraged students to attend the event wearing business clothes.
“If you look at pictures from the March on Washington, people came with a mission and dressed like the policymakers in Washington — they were lobbying,” said Lamar Gary, the executive director of BSA. “Today, we also want to be taken seriously, so we’re dressing like the people who make change at the university.”
Many students expressed their discontent at recent changes made by the administration and believed that there were cyclical issues with university policies. The executive director of Program Board, Juan Espinoza, cited the construction of the fences at the entrances of the University Park Campus.
“I don’t want to be known as the generation that closed the institution off to the community and new ideas,” Espinoza said. “These forums of interaction are the ones that build the world we see. We’re in one community. We sit in South Central in one community.”
Some students recognized the significance of the event in relation to Black History Month, but said the beliefs they expressed were significant to the entire student body. Mellissa Linton, the executive director of the Queer and Ally Student Assembly, said that the event represented equality not just for one group, but for everyone.
“None of us will be free until we all are,” Linton said. “We need to stick together. None of us should shut up until we are all free.”
Many marchers said the ideas being voiced in front of Tommy Trojan need to continue to be voiced in order to create long-lasting change.
“When you don’t have your sign and when you’re in a classroom where people don’t have the same belief as you, will your cause continue?” said Princeton Parker, a sophomore majoring in communication.
After individuals spoke, the crowd listened to the full version of King’s famous speech. Pierce was inspired by hearing the unedited version of the speech.
“King’s words definitely ring true,” Pierce said. “It’s like listening to a good sermon again. I was especially impressed that many people listening to the speech were people who were not only black. All types of people were here.”
In fact, Gary said one of the greatest successes of the event was that it attracted people from all cultures.
“I’m pleased people got up there and really represented their causes and didn’t hold anything back,” Gary said. “Usually people feel like they’re preaching to the choir, so this was a forum where people could broadcast to various crowds and spread information about their causes.”
To Espinoza, the march illuminated the purpose of encouraging students to express their beliefs.
“With this public visual, we can have a change,” Espinoza said. “We are showing that each individual has agency. We want all students to realize their incredible self-worth.”
The event concluded with students singing the Negro National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Gary said he hopes that the ideas expressed and the community built at the march will continue to develop and expand.
“Today, we began the dialogue,” Gary said. “Tomorrow, I want people to take the next steps to create change and educate others on the types of steps we all should be making for our causes.”