Students & faculty protest to bring awareness to racial tensions at Western Carolina University

Students at Western Carolina University and faculty protest to support Black Lives Matter - Monday, April 4 - Photo by Alec Simkiss

Students at Western Carolina University and faculty protest to support Black Lives Matter, Monday, April 4, Photo by Alec Simkiss.

A group of protesters gathered at Western Carolina University staged a silent protest to bring awareness to racial tensions on campus.

WCU community standing with Black Lives Matter, April 4, 2016. Photo by Alec Simkiss.

A group of about 30 to 40 people gathered around the fountain with hand-made signs on Monday evening, April 4, writing chalk down on the ground in support of Black Lives Matter. Students and those protesting also offered chalk for other students who wanted to participate.

Students said they wanted to show support and solidarity to their fellow African-American and minority classmates in hopes of raising awareness and helping minority students feel safer on campus.

The event was organized by campus groups including the Student Work Association, Latin American Student Organization, Jackson County Democrats, Jackson County NAACP, UKirk ministry, the Black Student Union, Alpha Phi Alpha, Intercultural Affairs, the Anthropology Club, College Democrats, the Inspirational Gospel Choir, as well as the faculty of WCU joining together in unity. The age range of protesters was age 4 to 70 and included a diverse group of individuals within.

The protest comes after an outcry last month when anonymous, racially-charged comments appeared as a reaction to pro-Black Lives Matter chalk drawings on Yik Yak, a social media app that orients around college campuses.

Some students called those messages “racist”, “hurtful”, and “cowardly”. One particular message said at the time, “Don’t need any of those Howler Monkeys out at the fountain right now.” Or as the one in the screen shot bellow.


Students were chanting “spread love, not hate”, “people united will never be divided”, and “don’t yik-yak about it, talk about it”.

Many students watched the protest and approved of what they were doing. Others walked by and shook their heads, but walked on by.

“It’s ridiculous to me that racism is still an issue in this day and age, but things like [the Yik Yak posts] prove it’s still ongoing,” said Kendra Brown, WCU student. “This will hopefully promote more integration between students.”

“This protest is beneficial. I believe that personally, during 2016-17, that we are at a turning point in American history and this protest will make things better. For good or for bad, this will hopefully get to where America should be, which is not one led by Donald Trump,” stated Matt Howie, WCU student.

Some of the protesters commented as well.

“Black Lives Matter deserves to be heard. Hopefully, this protest will bring more allies to BLM,” said Mick Cauthen, WCU student. “We need to stand together as people. Race doesn’t matter, and every person is a person and that’s why we’re here.”

protest WCU April 4. Photo by Alec Simkiss

Paper sign taped to the ground by protester. Photo by Alec Simkiss.

“The protest is for supporting voices not being heard on campus. There are a lot of hidden issues we are afraid to avoid, so we feel that this is a platform so that other students can voice things they feel are wrong with what’s happening at Western Carolina University,” said Trevor Voles, member of the Black Student Union and WCU student. “I hope to achieve recognition and understanding. If no one knows anything on what we’re truly about and are not knowledgeable about what [BLM] is and what’s happening here on campus, we won’t get anywhere. So that’s why I’m here.”

“To me, [BLM] means to highlight a key flaw in the society that we live in to where we’ve either convinced ourselves that racism doesn’t exist, or that it’s simply hiding. In reality, it is still incredibly present,” Matt Howie commented.

Protest wcu 3. Photo by Alec Simkiss“[BLM] means that there a lot of things going on that affect the African American people and it’s a platform we use that affects our race and our culture. When we say black lives matter, it doesn’t mean that other races don’t matter, but when something affects you, you take pride in that and you’re going to voice your opinion about it. We’re not saying to not show support for your own race, but that [BLM] is what we use to support ours. We invite anyone who wants to support us to come out and help,” Trevor Voles said.