#CUCBlackout Event Helps Unify CUC Community and Denounce Racism

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By: Carter Gledhill 

River Forest, Ill. – The gathering was one of the greatest displays of community support and solidarity at Concordia University Chicago (CUC) this year. CUC’s Black Student Union (BSU) hosted the #CUCBlackout event on Tuesday, October 21. The peaceful gathering held in the Triangle aimed to build community and stand against racism and injustice. The socially distanced crowd wore all black clothing as a display of support for African Americans and people of color in the university community.

The event kicked off with an introduction from BSU advisor Blanca Correa followed by an opening prayer from Pastor Jeff Leininger. In her speech, Correa mentioned the value of working with a diverse group of students in her three years at CUC. “I am here to listen, to advocate, and help with whatever I can,” said Correa. “We’re not designed to go through struggles alone. I hear you, I see you, and today I stand with you.”

University President Dr. Russell Dawn followed with a speech about the importance of faith in building community. “Regardless of race, ethnicity, or sex, our Lord created you and died for you because He loves you,” said Dawn. “Who am I to have any attitude towards you except to love you with brotherly affection.”

President Dawn finished his speech with a message from the university’s values. “Each one of you is unique and blessed with inherent worth,” said Dawn. “You have value, and we at Concordia University Chicago value you.”

BSU President Ky’mauni Walker’s statement was delivered by Vice President CJ Salmon, Walker addressed the current struggles of the troubling year. “2020 has been a tough year for us all and has taught us very valuable lessons” stated Walker. “The biggest one I’ve learned is we still have a lot of growth to do in our society when it comes to the rights of our black and brown brothers and sisters.”

The event gave several CUC student and faculty members the opportunity to speak about how racism has affected their lives. Ken Howard, CUC’s Head Strength and Conditioning Coach delivered a heartfelt speech about defying the statistics and surrounding yourself with support and love. “To everyone who’s going through things, I want you to pull yourself up and be proud of yourself,” said Howard. “I want you to hear it from me; you do matter regardless of who won’t say it. I love you, the world loves you, God loves you.”

Sam Key, CUC’s Resident Director and Coordinator of First-Generation Student Engagement, reiterated throughout his speech the current struggles and pain many African Americans experience in the United States. Key said, “I’d be lying if I said everything was rainbows and sunshine.”

Key mentioned the university banners that say “Your world opens up from here” as a way the CUC community can be an example for other institutions to follow. To complement that, Key says, “Your world opens up once you open your heart and mind to change.”

Former track athletes and current graduate assistant Tyrique Thomas used his speech to denounce the myths and beliefs associated with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” It has no association with religion, politics, or elevation of race. “‘Black Lives Matters’ is about pointing out the issues we’ve [African Americans] been through and letting everyone knows we can unify together to make this not a thing,” said Thomas.

Thomas emphasized the significance of the movement’s effort to promote equity and unity throughout the United States. “Let’s eliminate that phrase and connotation behind ‘Black Lives Matter’ and take it back for what it really is; the unity of all people and treating my people fairly and equally like we all should be,” said Thomas.

Other speakers included Director of Academic Advising Porché Garner, as well as Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach Russel Martin. Following the speakers, a two-minute moment of silence was held in honor of those who have fallen to racism and injustice. Pastor Matt Wietfeldt concluded the event with a speech about the group One Concordia will start regular meetings again in the future. The group comprised of students, faculty, board members, and CUC community members aims to improve the campus culture and university standing.