“In order to get change, you have to be the one promoting it. It’s not going to just come by itself,” said Otaasia Barfield, the president of the Black Student Union (BSU) here at Stout. She is also the student that has been organizing the Non-Violent Peace March, set to happen on Wednesday, February 15.
Barfield is a senior in the Criminal Justice program, originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has been the President of BSU for two years. Barfield explained that the inspiration for the Peace March occurred in September, when Terence Crutcher, a 40-year old black man, was shot and killed by Betty Shelby, a white police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“[We] decided we needed to do something. We needed to have something on this campus. [We] finally realized we needed to have a peace rally. At first it was just an idea that floated around, but I was really ready to make it happen,” Barfield said.
The Peace March will begin at 12 p.m. that Wednesday, and begin with a student led introduction and explanation of what the day will look like. Marchers will meet behind the MSC in the amphitheatre, and the march will end there as well. Barfield stated that they want anyone and everyone in support to come to the march, and that their goal is to have the entire campus’ support. The Peace March will be held in silence, because Barfield believes that silence speaks volumes.
In response to her views on being a leader, Barfield explained, “Some people have a voice, but they don’t know how to use it or they don’t know the words. So for any kind of activist, when someone stands out and speaks up, the people that don’t have a voice find their voice. It motivates them to want to do what they always wanted to do. I want to show people, ‘If I can do it, so can you.’”
The mission statement of the Peace March goes as follows,
“The nonviolent peace march is to come together as a student body by standing in solidarity with the black lives matter movement and with all marginalized communities. We want to send a message to our community that says we will not stand for racism or other forms of oppression. We will march unafraid.”
Barfield expressed her desires to have anyone and everyone attend the march, and hopes to have a large crowd. She also discussed her motivations to continue fighting for students and the future of this campus.
“We won’t just stop at this. We’re not just going to start with a peace march; this campus needs way more than that. We’re gonna be doing stuff after this, and even if that means by the time I’m gone that’s when the change happens, at least it happened,” Barfield stated. “To any student that feels like they’re alone: you’re not alone. You can always come to somebody. We are there for you, and it’s not just me, it’s a community of people.”