The recently reinstated PRIDE club turned the sidewalk between Fayerweather and Pearsons into a Pride Walk on Sep 16, writing numerous supportive messages and drawings in pastel chalk. While the weather did its fair share of damage, the majority of the defacement was man-made. On Sep 17, multiple drawings of certain pride flags were washed away or scuffed in some deliberate manner, and two hateful messages were written in front of Pearsons Hall by an unknown group of students on campus.
The Club’s board members, as well as Dr. Coker, President of Maryville College, do not suspect that this clear act of hate will hinder them or the college’s long-standing message of support in any way.
According to Dr. Coker in an email sent out on Sep 17, “We will not tolerate blatant acts of disrespect and erasure towards our LGBTQ+ community. Anyone with credible information about who defaced this artwork should contact Campus Safety and Security as soon as possible.”
The action being taken against the individuals who partook in the vandalism as well as the identity of the individuals is still unknown to the public.
According to Grace Brandl, Chairman of Outreach and Events, several PRIDE members held two to three hour-long meetings in the days after the event with Dean of Students and Vice President Melanie Tucker, and Assistant Dean of Students Kristen Gourley.
Brandl stated that these meetings went over the details of the vandalism as well as discussing establishing the Maryville College campus as a safe place before students are even enrolled here. These meetings also discussed ideas for future events, which Brandl felt was further proving that the PRIDE club is not going anywhere.
In fact, the vandals might be a little upset to know that the clubs’ morale could not be higher in light of this event. In the first meeting since the event, everyone seemed incredibly joyous and excitable. The energy within the meeting did not feel defeated in the slightest.
At the beginning of the meeting, Jenni Cate, Discussion Leader of the Board, wrote a very appropriate question on the whiteboard: “How are we feeling?”
All club members unanimously agreed that they feel more love than hate at this point. They felt that the vandals had become the minority in this situation.
When talking about the overwhelming amount of support from the campus as well as its staff, September Wilson, Chairman Event Facilitator of the Board, said “Seeing that we aren’t going to lose this is impactful in itself.”
A second Pride Walk was held the following day after word of the defacement had spread. This chalk walk had expanded to at least 120 people, a headcount courtesy of Kelton Bloxham, and the artwork had equally expanded from the front of Pearsons to the opposite side of campus, closing up on the road in front of Bartlett Hall.
The nature of the messages had also changed to a more aggressively supportive manner. At the first chalk walk event, the messages were of a more tame nature, with drawings of Spongebob with a rainbow and small flowers all around. The second time around, they put their foot down. The messages became of a more aggressive nature, including a strong statement that ‘We’re here!’ The club stated that it felt as though at that moment more than ever, those messages needed to be written.
It’s so important that the Center for Campus ministry thinks these messages should have the opportunity to be written every day. From here on out, chalk will be kept in the parlor of the Center for Campus Ministry, allowing students the option to write any message they would like in support. This idea hasn’t been useless either, as messages in support can still be seen weeks after the event took place.
When events like this happen, it’s easy to get blindsided by rumors and false reports simply made to stir the pot, and it’s also easy to get distracted by anger. Unnecessary violence has been the cause of a lot of problems for a long time, and it’s important to refrain from this.
“I think it’s most important to understand that retaliation doesn’t have to be aggressive, violent, or hurtful in any way, as shown retaliation can be lifting those who were put down back up,” said Nix Kirkpatrick, a freshman member of the club.
It’s also easy to count ourselves out of acts of hate like this. Numerous problems have been had by people doing so, but it’s easy to forget that as a community, when one of us is being met with hate, it affects us all.
When asked what they felt was important for allies to remember after an event like this happens, Kirkpatrick stated, “I think the most important thing for an ally to understand is that they are a part of the community as well and it is their duty as much as it is LGBTQ+ identifying to stand up against this as long as it is safe for them to do so.”
Over and over, it was stated in the days after the defacement that no matter how much adversity they faced, the PRIDE club was only going to grow stronger. This is shown simply by the large turnout of the second Pride Walk. There will be no holding back from here on out, as events planned for the future are well underway.
The next event being planned will be a Rocky Horror Picture Show on Oct 16th. Further details about the event are still being discussed, so make sure to keep an eye out for any and all PRIDE club events by following the club’s Instagram @maryvillecollegeprideclub!