More than 100 people marched at Texas A&M University on Friday afternoon in what organizers described as an opportunity to elevate the voices of Black students and stand up for change.
The event was made possible through collaboration between multiple student organizations, including the Black Graduate Students’ Association, Graduate and Professional Student Government and Black Student Alliance Council. Outside organization Power to the People also helped to organize the march, which drew a mostly younger demographic, including A&M quarterback Kellen Mond.
In an interview before Friday’s event, Power to the People cofounder and A&M senior Qynetta Caston said the demonstrators stood for multiple items, including the removal of the Lawrence Sullivan Ross Statue, asking A&M to hold racist students accountable for their actions and more concrete changes from A&M, such as including the department of multicultural services on campus tours. The demands of Friday’s protesters aligned with many that student group Black Leaders On Campus (BLOC) outlined on social media this week, but Caston said they were not directly tied to Friday’s march.
“We are done being told our voices do not matter,” Caston said at the start of the protest. “We are done being ignored by Texas A&M administration.”
Caston was one of five speakers. Mond also spoke, in addition to a representative from BGSA and a professor who was arrested at a protest against the Sul Ross statue earlier this month.
Ross was a Confederate general who later served as governor of Texas before becoming A&M’s president, serving from 1891 until his death in 1898. He is credited with saving the struggling university in its early years, boosting enrollment and securing additional funding to improve infrastructure. The statue was dedicated in 1918 in front of the Academic Building. In the interview before the event, Caston said Ross symbolizes white supremacy and hatred to many in the Black community.
Texas A&M has released multiple statements and plans to address student concerns in recent weeks, including a commission that will address the future of the Sul Ross statue on campus and a separate task force that will study the university’s race relations.
Demonstrators took a long route from the Administration Building to Academic Plaza, looping around the golf course and walking on Texas Avenue and George Bush Drive during some portions of the event. About five police cars and four officers on bicycles were present when protesters walked through George Bush Drive. Vehicles had to swerve around marchers on Texas Avenue, which led police to block traffic as demonstrators walked through George Bush Drive.
When the demonstrators arrived at Academic Plaza, there were a handful of men standing around the Sul Ross statue. Conversations between the men and people in the march remained peaceful but became heated at times as the two groups debated the meaning and significance of Ross’ statue on campus.
Some of those who stood in defense of the statue declined an interview with The Eagle.
Caston briefly referenced A&M senior Isaih Martin during the protest. On Wednesday, Martin had three racist notes on his windshield, and A&M is now offering a $1,200 reward for anyone who has information that leads to the identification of the person or persons responsible, according to earlier reporting in The Eagle.
Martin did not attend the march due to a busy schoolwork schedule, but he said he was in full support of the demonstrators’ message. Martin said the signs on his windshield were not the first time someone was racist toward him during his time in College Station, and he hopes the experience shines a light on racism in the community.
“I feel like this should be a wake-up call for everybody to actually put into motion things that can actually change instead of just brushing things under the rug and nothing actually happening,” he said in a Friday interview.
Chandler Wilkins, vice president of university affairs for the GPSG, said he was part of the initial plans for the march. He said the event was meant to bring attention to what Black students want to see in Aggieland.
“We wanted to elevate the voices of our Black graduate and undergraduate students in the community, as well as other Aggies who desire a change,” Wilkins said. “We have seen over past few weeks and historically over time, students are continually fighting for actual change and we want to make sure those voices, stories and experiences weren’t lost in translation but actually given a platform and space to be shared.”