On Sept. 20, Mercyhurst University students and faculty gathered in front of Old Main for the second annual Mercy March. Last year’s Mercy March for Black Lives set the path for this new event at Mercyhurst University, forming this year’s “Mercy March for Anti-Racism” hosted by Black Students for Unity (BSU), MAC and Campus Ministry.
The turnout was large, showing a hopeful sense of commu-nity on campus that is needed in cases of racism and division, which is still relevant in the country today. The event was entirely student-run, exhibiting that Mercyhurst University students are proactive in their passions and missions for social justice.
At 7 p.m., everyone gathered in front of Old Main to begin the march around campus. A few beginning remarks were made by senior BSU President, Janiece Withers, and a beautiful poem was read by a student member from Black Students for Unity about the various struggles of living as a black girl today.
Kathleen A. Getz, Ph.D., and President of Mercyhurst University gave a brief speech about her stance on the importance of the march. Getz shared that it is not enough to simply not be racist; she wants the entire Mercyhurst University campus to be actively anti-racist, and to get rid of the holds that race has on people’s minds. After telling the crowd about how race is a social construct and an unnecessary barrier, Getz wrapped up her speech and students got ready to start walking.
As President of BSU, Withers, a senior Fashion Merchandising major, led the crowd boisterously and passionately through some chants. She encouraged everyone to use their voices for change, and to chant loudly so that everyone in their dorms could hear the crowd yelling – a brief disturbance in studying, but a reminder of the even larger disturbance that racism has caused. Michelle Scully, Campus Minister for Mercyhurst University, said that they [the school] didn’t want this event [the march] to be a reactionary measure, but rather something that is ingrained in how the University approaches its Mission. The Sisters of Mercy, who founded Mercyhurst, have racism listed as one of their five concerns that they center their lives around. Scully said that, for this reason, the Mercy March is placed during Mercy Week, where the Sisters of Mercy and their mission are celebrated each year. When asked about what struck her the most about the Mercy March for Anti-Racism, Scully said that the leadership of the students inspired her the most. “It is an event that is not im-posed by those who work at the university, but is something that showcases the voices, needs and desires of the students, while the University works to support that. I would definitely encourage others to attend in the future to gain perspective and knowledge that you may have not considered be-fore,” said Scully.
The crowd was led down the sidewalk lining East 38th Street, back up on Briggs Avenue, past the Audrey Hirt Academic Center, wrapped around the fountain in Munson Plaza and then finished with a candlelight vigil by the Grotto. “We always end in prayer. This year the candles didn’t stay lit be-cause of the wind, but our mind and hearts were lifted up in prayer to remember all those who live on the margins, all those that are treated with disrespect, and all those who find life unbearable,” said Sister Natalie Rossi, officer for equity, justice and inclusion.
Mercyhurst University is committed to forming a community that is accepting and welcoming to everyone, and the Mercy March is a new annual event that is meant to build solidarity and unity among the community. Fighting racism is not a once-a-year event, however; we should all live each day actively combating racism and the various divisions that our nation faces.