The Pride of Oklahoma, one of the largest student organizations on OU's campus, is taking on various diversity initiatives, including creating an anti-racism task force in the Big 12.
The Pride of Oklahoma has been part of OU since 1904, and in that time has become one of the largest student organizations on campus — creating a wide sphere of influence with its over 300 participants.
Recently, members of the Pride have made a stand against racism, whether through marching in the streets or raising awareness through petitions and social media.
Students and faculty in the Pride are committing to anti-racism measures, even Brian Britt, the head of the Pride who is working with other band directors in the conference to work together.
“We are meeting with directors from all Big 12 member institutions to share ideas and strategies to help ensure that we are engaged in best practices regarding diversity, equity and inclusion as well as special emphasis on anti-racism,” Britt said.
Britt and his colleagues across the conference met to discuss the best ways to combat racism in their programs and seek how to properly help their students.
“College band programs all across our conference and our country have students who are facing the same challenges regarding racism and want to be a part of anti-racism,” Britt said. “We felt like it would be a good idea for us to take the lead in forming a task force across the conference.”
Britt said he hopes in addition to the directors' task force, students will be able to have their own task force between institutions.
“The task force that we’ve started has the mission to collaborate across the conference to combat racism in our classroom and create that sense of inclusion,” Britt said. “There’s not a more important topic that affects our students than racism and being an active part of anti-racism right now.”
Aaliyah Carter, a chemical biosciences senior and saxophone squad leader in the Pride, said she hopes band directors of the Big 12 Conference are working together to combat racism in their programs.
“I just want people to know that Pride has been making sure to include everyone,” Carter said. “Every time we travel, we always make sure we go to a Title I school when we visit. Title I schools are low-income and they have to deal a lot with poverty, so we always go and play there and show them that they can still come here.”
Pride drum major and engineering senior Paxton Leaf said he also wants the future of the Pride to be better than it is now and is helping others set up that future.
“This summer, we are trying to rework our leadership training seminars so that we can center it around diversity training and learn how to properly combat racism in our community and our school,” Leaf said. “Now we’ve got an opportunity where we can all work together and try to unite ourselves for the common good and make sure the people realize that Black lives do matter — and all lives can’t matter until Black ones do.”
Leaf said he also aims to help teach other students in the Pride how they can help.
“One of the things we were able to do was restructure our leadership training a couple weeks ago, so we could have the opportunity to send our student leaders in the Norman area to the Black Lives Matter march in Norman,” Leaf said. “I've been to marches in Oklahoma City, Norman, even back home in Kansas. I’ve been trying to share and sign as many petitions as I can. I'm trying to read as many books and be as educated about the situation as I can, and keep up with the news as well.”
Some students in the Pride said they are active in movements advocating for equal rights, such as tenor drums squad leader and political science junior Austin Bullock.
“I can definitely speak for myself in saying I’ve been getting involved in some of the protests locally and voting in the county election,” Bullock said.
Bullock said he got himself and fellow students involved with recent protests and has taken this time to learn, grow and become more aware of his surroundings.
Bullock also said the Pride is planning to have an educational talk with its members from the perspective of the Pride’s Black students. Bullock said he hopes it will educate others about being a Black student at OU.
Leaf, like Bullock, said he also tries to be an example for others in the Pride and make the band a place of inclusivity and togetherness.
“Especially in these trying times, we’ve worked very hard to make this an inclusive environment — we don’t stand for racism in any fashion,” Leaf said. “We’ve been very adamant to let people know that this isn't a political issue — this is a human rights issue.”