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Being the Bridge: Upstate Students Taking Steps to End Racial Injustice.

Women's Basketball player Maya Timberlake (left) and Volleyball player Rachel Stroot (right) make closing remarks at the "Be the Bridge" march.

On Oct. 7, USC Upstate students, faculty and staff took part in the “Be the Bridge” march across the campus. The march was to bring awareness to racial inequality in our country.

The march was organized by student athletes, Maya Timberlake, a member of the USC Upstate women’s basketball team, and Rachel Stroot, a member of the volleyball team. The name “Be the Bridge” is a call to action by those who attended to not only show their support for the issues presented, but also to act upon support. Maya Timberlake explained, “This means being intentional about their daily interaction with one another and getting to know each other in a more meaningful way.”

Many students, professors, coaches, administrators, and staff attended the march and the speeches. While the main purpose of the event was to get people to think critically about race relations in the U.S. and in our community, this event also offered everyone the opportunity to interact with others in-person.

Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Dr. Emily Kofoed, attended the march not only to listen and learn, but also to experience the environment of the event. “I love the concept of ‘being the bridge’ and I wanted to see people make new connections and physically stand in a space and show their support, their embodied support for an issue like racial justice,” shared Dr. Kofoed. When we spread awareness, it is one thing to hold a virtual town hall or produce a video about the subject, but it is immensely more powerful and effective to be among the participants.

All speakers at the march focused their thoughts on a central issue of not only acknowledging systemic racism in our society, but also combating it. Sophomore Men’s Track and Field athlete, Christia’n Chase Jarvis, spoke at the march to encourage the attendees to simply think. Jarvis stated, “I wanted people to walk away with a thousand thoughts inside of their heads after my speech. I wanted everyone out there to think about ways that they could do more.”

Several times throughout the speeches, the upcoming election was mentioned. For the speakers, the election was the most important way to try and to make changes to the problems that were being presented during the event. But beyond just voting, speakers wanted to make it clear that there is still more that can be done. Assistant Basketball Coach, Stacey Palmore, stressed the importance of being “impactful” in the community, “Don’t let this be a one-time deal. This should be an action that creates awareness, change, and unity for all walks of life.”

Action beyond this march continued to be echoed by other speakers. There are a number of ways that one can fight for change whether in the form of voting, pointing out injustices, or simply starting a dialogue with their peers.

Voting is the right many of us have, and the one for which has been fought for decades and is still being fought for now. Voting is important that we do not take it for granted. It is sometimes easy to think that your vote will not count for anything, so why even bother. Unfortunately, this is a popular mindset, especially among those who feel the system is already rigged against them, which is a divisive tactic. When people believe that their words mean little to the outcome, they will continue to be silent, thus feeding more into the system that they feel is oppressing their views.

The only way to combat this is to speak up, whether in the voting booth, or in other means. This election is by far too important to our futures, and for those who will follow us to continue to sit back and watch from the sidelines. The 2020 Presidential election is Tuesday, Nov. 3, but at the ballots we also get the opportunity to vote for our Senator who will represent South Carolina.

It is paramount that we use this power given to us to fight for what we believe; however, the work does not end on Nov. 3 at the ballots. You can be active citizens when it comes to important issues at the local, the state, and the nation. You can take part in peaceful protests, write to state senators and representatives about issues that need attention or consideration, and make sure your voice does not go unheard at the national level by expressing your opinions to our U.S. Senators.

Dozens of resources online are available for you to make sure your voice is heard, and all great ways are accessible for you to stay involved. But all of them are based on whether you believe in the people with power will represent you, and that is why the voting is the foundation for having your voice heard.

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