March promotes peace and progress

Pam Pruitt leads the March for Peace outside Moore Library with members of the Unashamed Gospel Choir and Westminster Jubilee Singers on Oct. 8.
Pam Pruitt leads the March for Peace outside Moore Library with members of the Unashamed Gospel Choir and Westminster Jubilee Singers on Oct. 8.

By Emily Kelley

Though much progress has been made, there is still much to be done.

The Unity Day events on campus were created to remind students that the racial war is not over, that as a culture, it is important to remember the past and look with hope toward the future.

On Oct. 8, students and faculty filled the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) theater. The department of Multicultural Affairs hosted the evening, titled “Civil Rights: Then & Now,” that featured performances from both Rider’s Unashamed Gospel Choir and the Westminster Jubilee Singers.

It was nearing 7:20 p.m. when the lights dimmed and Mikaela Batts took the stage for a ballet perfor-mance of “Glory” by John Legend & Common. Batts opened the night twirling to this ballad, reminiscent of the freedom marches that took place decades ago.

Pam Pruitt, director of Multicultural Affairs, then stepped up to the stage.

“Unity Day is one of the many curricular and co-curricular ways in which we help to prepare students for the multicultural world in which we live,” she said. “It helps us to understand and put into perspective the civil rights movement of the ’60’s and the work that continues to be done today.”

The curtains opened to reveal Rider’s Unashamed Gospel Choir positioned atop risers. Following the pace of their student director, Malissa Hanson, the choir entertained the audience with their rendition of “Gospel Ship” by Joan Baez and “Gotta Do Right,” as performed by the Heritage Singers Quartet.

“When I heard about the Unity Day event, I was so excited that it was bringing positivity and uniting our campus through music and dance,” said Savoia Buntin, senior arts administration major and member of the Unashamed Gospel Choir.

However, Buntin also said that the night was not just about seeing performances.

“I hope [everyone] enjoyed the music, but I also hope that they got a chance to reflect on the past,” she said. “Hopefully, taking the time to learn about our past can help us be grateful for the privileges we have now.”

Once more, Batts took the stage to dance to “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” This performance was followed by three songs sung by the Westminster Jubilee Singers.

Led by their conductor, Brandon Waddles, the Jubilee Singers performed “Five Choral Responses” by Roland Carter, “Prayer Fixes Things” by Jason Max Ferdinand, and “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” by Moses Hogan.

The Jubilee Singers hummed all the way through the aisles as they left the stage and filed out of the BLC. Students and faculty in the audience were asked to follow as the choir led a march around the Campus Mall. Each student was given a glow stick on the way out.

“There are so many people on this campus and each of them has their own culture or view on life, and I think it’s important to appreciate and accept all of them,” said Jennifer Schwartz,  junior elementary education and integrated sciences and math major, and member of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority.

Many representatives from 18 student groups on campus united to participate and show support.

The march ended at Moore Library once each student had peacefully walked. Both choirs led everyone in a unified performance of “We Are the World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. Students locked arms and waved their glow sticks high above their heads as one representative from each organization stepped forward to light the Unity Day candles.

Pruitt concluded the evening by reminding students that although the country has come a long way, there is still more to do. Decades ago, protesters would have finished their march and been greeted by police and violence. Today, marches can be done in safety.

“Now go in peace,” she said, dismissing students and drawing the night to an end.

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