Knocking Down the Wall: Choose a Better Word

This year’s Unity Week brought students together with arts and crafts, a potluck and a unity photo booth. But, it was the Choose a Better Word campaign that gathered students around a brick wall.

From Wednesday to Friday, stationed n Stoughton Lawn was a grey brick wall where students chalked words that are labeled offensive. Words like “retard” and “illegal,” and phrases like “angry black woman” and “chick-dude,” were scattered along the seven by twenty-foot structure.

The celebration of the campaign began when students grabbed yellow ropes attached to the wall and pulled it down together.

As a part of unity week, Joshua Moore, the Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, invited students to participate in this event to provide a time for reflection and action. The wall was pulled down on Friday to symbolize and, “… make a commitment to changing the words we use towards our daily activity,” Moore said.

Student organizations, such as the American International Association and Concerned Black Students, were involved in planning the campaign and unity week’s programming.

The campaign hasn’t always had a name or has been in this location, however. Last year, the wall was built between the faculty house and Chakeres Theatre where it did not receive much attention. The new location and name, Moore said, was to provide “greater participation.”

As words slowly appeared on the front of the wall, the back of the wall however promoted a different message.

When students gathered on Friday, some noticed the writing behind the wall that displayed comments and phrases that did not reflect the purpose of the campaign; one of those comments being, “If you’re reading this, you have a small wiener.”

“We can’t have anything nice,” one student responded.

Despite these words, Concerned Black Student’s president, Leul Bulcha, ‘20, said that as a student and president, he has seen people take the campaign more seriously.

From his sophomore to now junior year, Bulcha said that he has noticed people giving their undivided attention to the purpose of the campaign.

There have been “a lot of people showing understanding so that they can break the barrier,” Bulcha said.

With the new location attracting more students from different areas, the campaign is transformed from “not just about black and white or gender based,” Bulcha said, but an impact that affects others statewide.

Seeing people on the other side of the wall Bulcha said, was a “symbol of the barrier that stops us from unity.”

It was this reason that on Friday when he joined students in pulling down the wall, Bulcha said laughing that he “did aggressively.”

In response to the event overall, Moore said that he believes the campaign is a way to show the community what conversations need to be had in order to move forward.

“Until we start calling it what it is,” Moore said, “we’re not going to get anywhere.”

 

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