More than 100 students rallied on Main Campus on Friday afternoon to call attention to what they see as racial issues at Temple.
During the rally, students marched around campus and the surrounding neighborhood. They blocked traffic on Broad Street for almost 15 minutes.
“This is not a racist movement. This is not an act of racism,” Temple Student Government President Naeem Thompson said to those who gathered at the rally.
“This is a wake up call: Students, faculty, administration, community members; the time has come; Temple will no longer ignore the issues of the black students or the community,” said a flyer of the rally, intended to raise consciousness among the student body and community.
The rally followed a town hall meeting on March 30 where students and community members addressed what they deemed a “crisis in the black community.” Those who rallied communicated a concrete list of demands drawn from the meeting.
“The list of demands is set,” said Sanya Daniels, president of Temple’s Progressive NAACP chapter.
Daniels said she and Thompson were responsible for drafting and wording the list of nine demands, which included a need for a zero tolerance policy toward acts of racism, more black scholarship in the Intellectual Heritage program, an increase in black student enrollment by at least 20 percent, including recruitment and retention and the University’s contribution to the community as requested by the community.
“The input [in drafting the list] was a collective venture by students, community members and some faculty and administrators who attended the two town hall meetings,” Daniels said.
TSG has not endorsed the list of demands.
“[TSG] cannot endorse any demands until they have been properly researched to go before administration,” Thompson said.
Thompson added that the research of the demands does not have to be done solely by TSG and that there is no timeline in which the research must be completed.
“It’s up to the leadership of the people who organized the rally as well,” he said. “Any issue or concern that students want to be endorsed by student government has to have factual evidence that supports the issues or concerns.”
Friday’s rally began at Alumni Circle. As students gathered, some held signs that read, “Where are all the black teachers?” “Who’s (sic) Intellectual Heritage … Not Yours,” “Respect the black fist” and “More black students.”
Freshman English major Danny Calise said he agreed there should be more black scholarship in the Intellectual Heritage program; he has studied Asian and Middle Eastern texts, but nothing specifically African American.
“It’s totally unfair that we only study European literature besides the Koran – nothing from Africa,” Calise said.
Mark Peters, a freshman business major, was more concerned about the demand that addressed the University’s contribution to the community.
Peters said Temple could help out those in the community by offering them jobs on campus.
“I get pissed off when I walk around the community and I see how sad people look,” he said.
However, Chief Information Officer for the University Mark Eyerly said the University practices a “good neighbor” policy with the North Philadelphia community. According to Eyerly, the University’s growing residential student population has influenced economic development in the community and has contributed to economic growth.
“What the University is doing is not displacing, but bringing in economic activity,” Eyerly said.
Denise Ripley, a North Philadelphia resident of the 1900 block of Jefferson Street, expressed different sentiments. She discussed what she deemed the gentrification of her neighborhood and expressed her support for the rallying students and their cause.
According to Ripley, residents who live on the 1500 block of Garnet and Opal streets have lost their homes to gentrification. With the development taking place nearby, she fears she might be next.
“When will my home be affected?” she asked.
Elijah Oliver, 61, spoke of the alleged gentrification of his neighborhood.
Oliver, who lives on the 1600 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue, has lived in the community since he was 10.
“They take our houses and sell it to the white people,” Oliver said. “Everything belongs to the white people.”
The rally eventually headed to 20th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue to illustrate solidarity with the North Philadelphia community.
“We wanted to have a student presence in the North Philadelphia community … to get into the community and show them that we care,” Daniels said.
Junior marketing major Zoraya Smalley attended the rally. She discussed with those present an alleged verbal assault of her and four other black female undergraduates by a group of white males in the Kardon Building in February.
Though Smalley could not comment in detail of the incident because of a pending investigation, she confirmed that the incident was a “racial assault” and “racially motivated” and saw the rally as a positive way to present problems.
“Power is in actions. It’s very important to have the support of the Temple University community because it affects us,” Smalley said.
“We’re trying to better the University, trying to eliminate favoritism toward the majority in the University system.”
Daniels said the rally raised awareness and consciousness.
“It served its purpose; it made people aware of our issues,” she said.
The next step, according to Daniels, is to “have a meeting with administrators, meaning [Temple president David] Adamany, submit the demands and give him a deadline as to when there needs to be a tangible blueprint of the administration’s plan or course of action.”
Charmie Snetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.