Hannah Carroll, Campus Carrier Staff Writer
The Berry College campus event Solidarity Week has experienced expansion and is now preparing for its fall 2019 event.
Solidarity week was founded by junior Diamond Newsome in response to the events in Charlottesville of August 2017, in which a violent rally was formed over the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and three people died. These acts of violence incited fear in more than just the residents of Virginia, especially as the rally featured various groups of white supremacists, according to NPR.
Colleges and universities across the nation made statements to their students that they were safe and accepted on their campus, inspiring the idea of Solidarity Week, according to Newsome. She wanted to create a safe environment where the message was clear: no matter what you think, your background or who you are, the Berry community stands with you.
“It’s a week for students, faculty and staff to say that I stand with you regardless of what you believe or what you’re going through, and I think that is just so important,” Newsome said.
The event was quickly assembled with little organization, according to Newsome, but it has experienced growth since 2017. Now, a committee comprised of 23 Berry students has been formed to begin planning and preparing to organize the week. The sub-committees include events, logistics, volunteers, publicity, and communication. Also, several organizations are partnered with the event, such as the Bonner Scholar Program. More meaningful activities are planned and visibility across campus has increased, according to senior committee member Guiliana Fernandez Deza.
As the event grows, Newsome said she hopes the impact on the student population will too. The activities included are meant to be more insightful and beneficial to the participants, like the Diversity Fair and the Table Talk Discussion, which facilitates discussion on social issues that are typically perceived as uncomfortable.
Along with the message of support, Solidarity Week advocates for equality and acceptance. That is what Newsome felt when she first came to Berry, and that is what she would like to extend to others. The week offers an opportunity for minority students to connect with those who support them and educate others on present prejudices, according to Deza, who was initially inspired to be involved when she was asked to speak at a vigil in 2017 to share her experience as a person of color.
With hate crimes having increased by 17 percent in 2017, according to the FBI, the importance of supporting community members and leading with acceptance is crucial, especially for those who find their religion, race, or other personal characteristics as the target of violence. Solidarity Week aids in this cultivation of equality and advocacy of love within the Berry community that allows for minorities to feel safe and supported.
“[Solidarity Week] is a week where people are forced to deal with the growing diversity on Berry’s campus and a time where everyone is invited to have a seat at the table,” Deza said.
Solidarity Week will be Sept. 9 to Sept. 14 in the fall of 2019.