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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

March On Wofford

Demonstrators gathered outside of DuPre demand, “WE WANT SAMHAT!”

BIPOC organizations host first demonstration, demand racial equity

Early last week, rain washed the sidewalks clean for the tread of hundreds of students and faculty to march in unison with the Wofford Anti-Racism Coalition, Wofford Men of Color and Wofford Women of Color on Thursday. The demonstration was hosted to demand that the administration meet eight of the coalition’s demands that were posed in July.

Dressed in black, streams of students and faculty moved along the pathways from every corner of the college, pooling in one central location: outside of Carlisle Residence Hall. Here, Destiny Shippy ‘22 stood with WARC greeting hundreds of students and commenced the demonstration by explaining the past of James Carlisle, a slave owner.

Beside her, two members of WARC held a large banner that read, ‘WE WILL NOT BE SILENT,’ as she passed around photocopies of a receipt documenting James Carlisle’s purchase of a slave. The receipt reads, “one hundred and seventy-five dollars in full value for a negro woman named Nancy, aged about fifty six years, whom I warrant sound of body and mind and a slave for life.”

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Led in chant by Tayvian Gas ‘23, the mass of people then marched on to the Campus Life building echoing across campus, “No justice, no peace!” until gathering around the terrier statue. Here, Naya Taylor ‘21, spoke on student life at Wofford and specifically pointed out the lack of diversity in Greek Life and challenges that BIPOC students face gathering at the Greek Village.

“We demand that all greek organizations be treated equitably. The white fraternities have events, parties, and full access to their houses every weekend with no questions asked,” said Taylor from atop a chair.

From Campus Life, the mass of allies made their way up the hill to the cen- ter of campus, Old Main. The demonstrators gathered below the oaks that watched the building be erected by slaves, and spread out across the seal to hear the speakers on the steps.

Bryson Coleman ‘21 noted the significance of the skilled laborers who worked on the building, and led the group in taking a knee for a moment of silence lasting 8 minutes and 46 seconds—the amount of time George Floyd was pinned down before dying. For that period of time, the landscape was silent until the bell rang 3 times and shortly after, students and leaders made their way to Shipp Residence Hall chanting, “If we don’t get it, shut it down!”

“President Shipp owned slaves,” said Alea Harris ‘22. “I hate the idea of living in a building named after a man that would have seen me as an item to be sold like cattle,” she continued as students cheered in support.

Harris finished her speech saying, “If we can build stadiums, and we can repair Burwell, and we can redo Campus Life, we can do this, we can erase a sign on a building. So for the rest of this march keep that on your mind: Wofford won’t even pay to rename a building.”

From Shipp, the group continued to Wightman where Gas explained the history of slave owner and former President Wightman, and spoke of his personal experience as a Black football player at Wofford.

The herd of supporters moved out onto N. Church street, where they received honks of support from passers-by, before turning onto College Street. Gathered in front of the President’s house and overflowing into the lawn of the DuPre Administration building, the demonstration reached a crescendo.

After Shippy said, “Now is the time for President Samhat to do something about it. Now is the time for his cabinet to do something about it. Now we will sit out here as long as it takes,” the crowd erupted into chanting, “We want Samhat!”

Samhat, accompanied by his wife Prema, came onto the porch of DuPre after the chant had been yelled for some time. The couple stood side by side, flanked by campus safety officers, and attempted to address a disgruntled crowd.

“I’m glad to see you engaged in activism for social justice,” he began and was applauded by his wife only. “Something we’ve wanted around here and I’ve encouraged.”

He continued, “We have committed to working together, just the other day we outlined the ongoing things that we continue to do on this campus for our wofford community…” until interrupted by the crowd. “What about renaming the buildings?” A student cried.

Without answering the student, Samhat finished, “…and we have a process in place to address all of these questions and issues that represents the entirety of our community: trustees, students, staff and faculty.”

Without missing a beat, the crowd countered, “You mean donors!,” “What’s the process?” “We need action not words!”

“We need action,” the crowd began to chant over Samhat, not allowing him space to talk. When the chant broke, Taylor stood at the foot of the steps and addressed Samhat personally.

“We are screaming,” she said, “We are literally screaming at this moment because everyday of our life we wake up and somebody else is dead because of the same systemic racism.” The crowd erupted in applause and cheers and Taylor concluded, “we need action, we need you to commit.”

“We commit to solving these issues on our campus as I have said over and over again, all of us. We are committed to it, we are taking action, we have outlined the things that we will do and we have done,” Samhat attempted to counter before the mass’s chanting ensued.

The crowd, displeased, continued to yell over the president, calling him out for vague language and politics. Samhat was also called upon by WARC for taking credit for work that other campus groups have completed rather than specifying the work that he is doing for the betterment of racial climate at Wofford.

As students continued to voice their thoughts, the crowd overwhelmed the scene with noise as Samhat consulted his VP of Marketing and Communications, JoAnn Brasington ‘89.

Samhat ended, “We will continue to undertake the actions that we shared with everyone on Monday,” and retreated back inside, leaving a displeased student body and faculty in the shadow of the tall, white DuPre Administration Building.

“There is a process in place and those building names are on the table, they are on the table,” Brasington reassured the escalated crowd after Samhat had left.

Voices throughout the crowd demanded, “When’s the board meeting?” Brasington informed the crowd that the board meeting would take place Oct. 15 and 16. Margaret Roach ‘21 voiced that the board would not be voting on the name changes at this meeting, to which Brasington confirmed and added, “but it is on the agenda.”

As the microphone was passed, posters remained in the air, students continued to voice their grievances and Gas ended, “I don’t know about y’all but I will be standing at the doorsteps Oct. 15 and 16 right here and we’re going to see about this on the table stuff.”

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