“Tonight’s theme is unity,” said Quentin Cummings, youth pastor for the Kickback at West. “Change takes time, but by your presence here tonight, you are inducing change to happen.”
On March 25th, the usual Kickback at West Bible study meeting took a deviation from their usual program. Groups of black students came together to discuss the racial injustices that have been taking place at UWG. While this was supposed to be a conversation between students and administration, administration was unable to make an appearance. Cummings, the mediator of the meeting, stated that the concerns of the students would be written down and taken to Dr. Andre Fortune, vice president of student affairs.
Several events led these students here. On March 10, the Wednesday before spring break, Dale Shawn was playing basketball at the Village courts along with a few other students. The students went to the Village instead of Urec indoor courts due to covid restrictions.
“A man pulled up to the basketball court and told one of us to move [our] car because it was blocking the way,” explained Shawn. “You ever seen a white person who’s looking kind of scared of you…like he’s not used to seeing too many black people in one place? It was like that.” Nevertheless, the group continued to use the courts without any problems. That is, until they returned the next day to find one of the goals missing. Shawn hopped on social media to record a video of himself explaining what had happened. He pointed out that the basketball goal had been taken down, while the volleyball net behind him was still standing with several white students playing. The video went viral among UWG students on Twitter, garnering over thirteen thousand views.
Outrage spread like wildfire. Students demanded to know why the basketball goal had been removed. They wanted a statement from the administration. One student, Jahquele Burks, went as far to confront President Kelly at the UWG spring game tailgate event on March 11, the day after the incident at the village. “How do you feel about what is going on? How do you feel knowing that I’m a black person on campus upset about what is happening?” Were Burks’ words to President Kelly. Kelly did not give a statement, and Burks left the scene.
“As soon as I saw him, I was angry,” stated Burks at the Kickback meeting. “Everyone who knows me knows I was really trying to keep my composure.” Burks has often spoken out against the racial injustices that have taken place at UWG, and this time was no different.
“Guess what, it’s not my responsibility to make him comfortable,” said Burks in response to the opposition he has faced in the way he chose to address the president and orgs on campus. “It’s his responsibility as president of this school to make sure that we all feel good and comfortable.”
“Each person has a responsibility despite their association with organizations,” said Burks in his frustration from lack of support from black organizations. “It’s systematic oppression for [orgs] to have to depend on UWG to provide funds and resources.” Burks feels that this system may prevent orgs from speaking out against these issues.
“We are always with you guys no matter what, it’s about unity. But there’s only so much we can do,” stated Nicole Latham, the vice president for Black Student Alliance. “My advisor hasn’t been invited to any meetings [with the president]. But Jahq, it’s all about your delivery.”
“As long as we’re coming out and speaking about these issues, people will be uncomfortable.” Shawn sympathized with Burks on his frustration with UWG as a whole. He stated his frustration with the lack of a statement from administration and the complacency with racism in the Carrollton community. “A lot of people [commented under the video] saying, ‘It’s Carrollton, what do you expect?’”
“They always say ‘all wolves stand together’, but how [quickly] I got put out the pack was very terrorizing. I was thrown away.” Janae told her story of her poor experience with UPD last semester. Two white boys chased her through The Oaks parking lot at two in the morning. She stated that they were intoxicated. She tried reporting the incident to the UPD, but she said that they did nothing to open the case or view the security camera footage from that night. “They said, ‘No. What you said was not what happened. The cameras were off, they boys were not drunk.’ Basically making it seem like I was just seeing stuff.” She criticized the safe shuttle that takes intoxicated students from The Village to and from Adamson square, while she had no protection on UWG grounds.
“I stand for UWG ten toes down. But I can’t sit quiet through the inequality.” said sophomore student Cheyenne on her frustration with UPD. Many students agreed with her when she said that the police turn a blind eye to the parties at The Village, but shut down the parties that black students throw off campus.
“It’s wrong. There’s a lot of stuff going on that’s wrong,” said a student who is on the advisory board for student athletes at UWG. “It’s bigger than just black and white….we can’t advance without white people’s help. It’s sad but that’s how it is.” He mentioned candid conversations he has had with administration, including president Kelly. He said that this approach plants seeds for change and agreed with Pastor Cummings. “We’re not gonna get the whole nine yards in a day, a lot of this stuff takes time.”
The search was still on to see what entity was responsible for the removal of the basketball goals. Sargent True made it clear that University Police had no involvement. The goal appeared back in its place after spring break. A sign was posted outside of the courts on March 21, stating the rules for its use. Stephen Whitlock, director of housing and residence life issued this statement:
“UWG leadership has been in communication with numerous student organizations to discuss this. After investigating complaints about activities in The Village, the backboard and rim have been returned to the basketball court, and all of our outdoor amenities adjacent to on-campus housing have posted guidelines for use.”
Students have yet to have an answer from housing or administration as to why these events took place. While problems such as these have been ignored in the past, this current group of students seems determined to make their voice heard.