Hundreds of UNC Asheville students gathered on the quad to rally against the racial injustices faced by Black people on Friday.
The rally began with a moment of silence followed by speeches from Chancellor Nancy Cable, Athletic Director Janet Cone, Student Body President London Newton and various athletes. A big message the athletes wanted to get across is the importance of voting.
“I’m just really proud that everyone came out here especially during COVID and there were so many people,” Melissa Brown, track and field runner said. “This happened overnight, for this to be such a big turnout was really amazing. I’m really proud of the whole student body for that.”
The student body received an email from Newton and women’s basketball players Amaryah Corpening, Nadiria Evans and Summer Dilwood the night before informing them of the rally.
“UNC Asheville students are above average and work their asses off. We learn about the people who were the firsts to do things and were extraordinary in what they did. I expect the same from the leaders of our university. I don’t want to make small steps I want to make leaps and bounds and be leaders in anti-racism work and breaking down the systems of white supremacy in higher education. We should hold ourselves to the highest standard not just because we can do better, but because we should do better,” Newton said.
Evans said it took a lot of people to plan this out and everyone they spoke to showed their support.
“I definitely did not expect this many people to come out that did, and that just shows us that we have the school behind us,” Evans said. “The people that went into this, it was not just us three it took us reaching out to different adults on campus and for them to have their support meant the world to us, for our coaches to have our backs, for the athletic director, the chancellor, it meant the world to us.”
All of the speakers were surprised by the attendance of the rally and by the massive amount of support they felt by the student body.
“I was really amazed at the turn out it warmed my heart, I was not expecting that many people and just how all of them were applauding us and willing to chant and speak up,” Corpening said. “All of our speakers, last minute for them to share their personal experiences I think that’s important and they had to put down the wall and tell people how they feel but I think this brought us together as a campus, I already knew our athletic director and chancellor were already with us and in on this and they support us 100 percent but I think letting the Black people know on campus that they have people that support them I think that really showed tonight.”
Corpening said there should be more diversity in the faculty, staff, professors and students. According to the UNCA Spring 2020 Enrollment At Glance data 73.8 percent of students who attend are white and only 5 percent of students are Black.
“I do want to see more Black people in administration as well as athletic whether it be head coaching jobs, assistant coaching jobs more Black professors as well and just making sure that we continue to make sure campus diverse but at the end of the day I do think the administration is trying to make a change and I see they want to so I think I see change coming here,” Corpening said.
Another demand for UNCA made by Demon Thomas, who attended the rally is for the school to make sure their students feel comfortable at school. “Comfortability is the key to keeping students,” Thomas said.
Tamiah Lewis, a player on the women’s basketball team, wants the school to push for more voter mobilization.
“I just want to see the administration help students register to vote and help educate our students, a lot of people here are fresh outta highschool 18 years old they don’t know how to do it sometimes their parents don’t even tell them how to do it” Lewis said. “Having more people do more programs out on the quad or in the classes tell them how to vote how to register when to do it. Get them dates is just as important as basketball games or soccer games or any other UNCA events, this event is an america event and it’s extremely important.”
Cone said she fully supports the student-athletes and is proud of the leadership shown from them to make societal change.
“The University can involve not only our student leaders but also other members of our campus community to raise awareness and improve education about these issues, increase access, improve representation and continue to support our entire campus community as we forge a pathway to a culture on our campus where any student of color feels supported and has a positive experience.” Cone said.
After the rally ended many people wanted to do more and were wondering what was next.
“The message I want to say is let’s not stop lets keep going, lets figure out what’s next like how can we keep build on this,” Evans said. “A lot of people of have come up to us asking what are we gonna do, when’s the next march and we haven’t thought that far but it don’t have to be us it can be anybody the next person whether it be us or another team or just a regular student or a professor you know anyone just take the next step and don’t let it stop here.”