By Talbert Toole
Video by Talbert Toole and Carson McKinney
More than 150 students, faculty, staff and members of the LOU community gathered in the lobby of Lamar Hall before marching in solidarity to the Confederate monument on campus Thursday. The event was part of Black History Month programming for several groups on campus.
The group marched in silence from Lamar to the intersection of University Ave. and campus, then into the heart of campus to the statue. Many who marched also held signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “Take It Down,” and “A Heritage of Hate is Nothing to Celebrate.”
Silence is symbolic in nature, said Jarrius Adams, president of the University of Mississippi Gospel Choir.
“Historically, civil rights leaders have marched in silence to send a simple message: We are going to let our actions speak louder than our words,” he said.
Adams stood behind a podium at the statue with Jailien Grant, president of the University of Mississippi NAACP, and Jarvis Benson, president of the University of Mississippi Black Student Union.
Adams delivered a speech that addressed several talking points: black leadership, the fight against institutional racism and the Confederate statue.
“This statue is not just stone and metal,” Adams said. “It is not just an innocent remembrance of a benign history. This statue celebrates a fictional, sanitized Confederacy.”
During Adams’ speech, he became emotional as he felt the impact of each word.
Adams wrote the speech over the past week and said he did not find himself becoming emotional; however, at times he did find himself getting angry.
“It was a shift of emotion whenever I was looking out to my African-American brothers and sisters,” he said.
The emotion grew as Adams continued to look out to the crowd where he saw allies who were not people of color, he said.
“It just touched my heart,” Adams said. “I was very happy.”
The march took place two days before Confederate groups—Confederate 901 and the Hiwaymen—plan to rally from the Square to the university Circle.
Grant said it is no coincidence that the two Confederate groups decided to plan a rally in the midst of Black History Month.
“I think it is purposely disrespectful to the month that is dedicated to African-Americans,” Grant said. “But I also think that it does not stop the history of Black History Month and what it stands for.”
This is not the first time groups similar to Confederate 901 and the Hiwaymen have come to the Ole Miss campus, Adams said. His organizations and others similar to it have been consistent with their messaging — their presence is unacceptable.
Adams said not only does the student body have to address this issue with the university administration but to the state of Mississippi as well.
Grant said the next step, post-rally, is to continue being a student.
“We realize there is a lot to change on the Ole Miss campus,” Grant said. “Our focus is to continue that fight but also continue being students.”
In times of combatting racism, Adams said people look to leaders such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin Luther King Jr., but as students they cannot be those people at this moment.
“It takes a pebble to move the mountain,” he said. “Everyone can do something to keep pushing forward.”