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Students march to SAE house in hope of inspiring change on campus

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Students hold finger print banner and chant "Not On Our Campus" during the National Pan-Hellenic Council demonstration Tuesday evening out side of the huff. 

Members of National Pan-Hellenic Council and other demonstrators stopped traffic Tuesday night when they marched from Huston Huffman Fitness Center to the former Sigma Alpha Epsilon house, chanting, singing and holding a banner.

The march celebrated the closing of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house after the video surfaced Sunday.

The demonstration started at Huston Huffman Fitness Center, where more than 200 people used paint to put their thumbprints on a white banner. They marched down the South Oval and to the former SAE house parking lot, located at 730 College Ave., chanting “not on our campus” and singing “Lean On Me.”

“We need to move beyond songs,” said senior Marquis Bell-Ard, who was at the demonstration. “Hopefully this leads to larger changes.”

As the demonstrators marched down College Avenue, students came out of greek houses and watched from windows. Several members of Sigma Phi Epsilon came out of their fraternity house and joined the group in the march.

“There are a lot of people outside of the OU bubble who need to hear what is happening here,” Bell-Ard said. “[We need] to create a form of healing and to use this as momentum for larger structural issues. This was a starting point for anti-blackness.”

Norman police officers blocked traffic on College Avenue with their cars, and students stood in the parking lot across the street of the former SAE house to watch.

The students demonstrated in the house's parking lot for about an hour, where they sang, chanted and spoke about changes that need to be made on campus and what members of National Pan-Hellenic Council should do moving forward.

Bell-Ard spoke about how racism requires a cultural change.

“What we were saying was jarring,” Bell-Ard said about the student speakers. “I think that they felt the powerfulness but some of these conversations won’t be easy.”

Rashid Campbell, African American studies senior, said students need work for campus and cultural changes.

"I need y'all to say: I'm the change," Campbell said.

Campbell also said that though some of the things being said were harsh, such as how white people embrace black music and culture but don't embrace black people, that was the point.

"If you are not uncomfortable, you are not learning," Campbell said.

Public relations junior Emmi Coatney said that the things she heard at the demonstration were moving and interesting.

“They opened up a space for people to come together face to face, which is bigger than just social media,” Coatney said. “We need to talk about these issues and listen to what they have to say.”

Coatney said that it is important for the OU community to unite and heal.

“We shouldn’t think of it as a certain race getting hurt. We’re all human,” Coatney said. “If people feel hurt and neglected, there needs to be a place to talk about that. I think that racism is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

Ward 7 City Council member Stephen Holman, who attended the last 30 minutes of the demonstration, said he is proud of the students for taking a stand.

“I think that it sends a really positive message about unity and standing together in the face of adversity,” Holman said. “Even when it’s an unfortunate topic, when they can get a lot of people together, good things happen.”

He said that he hopes the racist Sigma Alpha Epsilon video sparks discussion and change.

“I’m under no illusion that these things happen here,” Holman said. “Norman has come a long way from the past that we once had. Hopefully we can use this event to continue to move forward together.”

Bell-Ard said that National Pan-Hellenic Council is making plans to keep open discussion about racism alive.

“It’s going to be using the white allies we have at this university to challenge their friends,” Bell-Ard said.

Daisy Creager is a journalism sophomore and a news editor at The Daily. She started as a reporter at The Daily last year. She is the president of OU's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and interned at The Bristow News over the summer.

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