Claps, speeches and songs rang in front of the Tommy Trojan statue Thursday night as more than 100 students from both USC and UCLA, faculty and community members gathered to stand in opposition to a violent white nationalist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Va., and to stand in solidarity with those affected.
“Ain’t no power like the power of the people, because the power of the people don’t stop,” they chanted.
Many of those in attendance held signs and wore shirts with slogans opposing racism and in support of communities of color.
Saphia Jackson, co-director of the USC Black Student Assembly, opened the rally encouraging students not to remain silent, and reminding those in attendance that white supremacy hits close to home, referring to the presence of Traveler, USC’s mascot, which bears a name similar to Robert E. Lee’s horse, and the attempted removal of a statue depicting him motivated much of the violence in Virginia.
BSA co-Directors Saphia Jackson and Ariana Seymore declined to comment on if they would seek to remove Traveler’s statue from campus.
Jackson addressed the crowd assembled, urging students to embrace activism.
“I push administration, faculty and staff to have serious engagements and not dismiss our issues because we are here for serious change,” Jackson said to the crowd. “We can no longer afford to stay silent.”
Students stepped up to share poems and songs they had written about their experiences as people of color, including one student who provided a song based on The Beatles’ “Blackbird.”
Jacob Pettis, a freshman majoring in political science, shared that it was just his second day on campus, but that it was crucial for him to stand up to racism and bigotry.
“With everything happening right now, we don’t have time to sit around and do nothing,” Pettis said. “We have to resist… in order to make systemic change.”
Along with those from USC, Kosi Ogbuli, the vice chair of UCLA’s African Student Union, and a dozen other students from UCLA visited campus to support USC BSA’s activism.
“It goes beyond all the superficial things that tend to divide us,” Ogbuli said. “To have presence, you have to be present. For me, not to have presence is not letting the actions be held accountable.”
Aaron Fluornoy, owner of Lil Bill’s Bike Shop, which operated as a bicycle repair shop near campus for nearly 25 years, encouraged students to resist the University’s hierarchy and said that he hoped to encourage students to acquire knowledge and lead change.
“You know why they hate me?” Flournoy said. “It’s because I am making noise. We are going to make some noise.”
BSA co-director Ariana Seymore said that she would like the University to provide forums for conversation with high-ranking faculty regarding the issues that face USC and the United States regarding prejudice and racism, providing more support for cultural centers and providing a social space for conversation within minority communities.
“Accepting and embracing your individuality and your identity that might be different than the majority is an act of resilience,” she said. “No matter who you are, you are not alone.”
CORRECTION: a previous version of this article stated that USC’s mascot, Traveler, was named after Robert E. Lee’s horse. It has been updated to reflect that the horse bears a name similar to Lee’s horse. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.