Demonstration

I spent the whole day on campus yesterday. I started in the morning with the H2O Staff team praying together in the grove of trees between Manchester Field and the Centennial Fields. Specifically, we prayed John 17 for the University. We asked God for love and unity as the campus continues to wrestle with racial tension.

And then we got to work demonstrating it.

After prayer, Brooke and I walked around campus trying to meet people. Our church has been following the model of Luke 10, going out two-by-two to share the Good News of God’s Kingdom and be “good neighbors.” Campus was pretty quiet, but we still had a few meaningful conversations. In the middle part of the day, I had a couple of meetings with students (both black and white) — and it was clear that the racial unrest was on everyone’s mind.

At two o’clock, I joined a group of perhaps 300 to 500 people demonstrating against the recent acts of campus vandalism threatening Black students. I felt awkward and insecure again because demonstrations are not really my scene. Especially in the midst of a pandemic. Still, I felt it was important to show up for this one. I wanted to be a part of physically manifesting a community of love, acceptance, and support for People of Color.

So we started on Risman Plaza, in the center of campus. A couple of leaders from Black United Students read a list of demands to the University Administration, while standing on top of the fountain. Afterwards, the group started marching together through campus.

We walked from Risman Plaza past Manchester Field and the Centennial Fields. We walked past Taylor Hall, the May 4th Memorial, and Memorial Field.

Along the way, we chanted slogans like “No Justice; No Peace” and “Hands Up; Don’t Shoot.” The group stopped for awhile at Oscar Ritchie Hall (home to the University’s Department of Pan-African Studies), chanting more slogans, and then we continued towards the front part of campus.

The march ended at the Rock, which has been the center of controversy and tension this week. A number of students and city council representatives made statements. I listened. And prayed.

One of the more subtle, symbolic moments of the afternoon came when my colleague (and friend) Lauren brought out one of H2O’s portable speakers to help the crowd better hear and understand what was happening around the Rock.

She set the speaker on the Rock, plugged in a microphone, and handed the microphone over to the students who were leading the demonstration. It felt like such an apt metaphor. We didn’t need to speak out. We just needed to amplify and support the voices of Kent State University’s Black Community on an occasion like this.

My favorite moment of the afternoon was when a Kent State University senior named CJ took the microphone. He spoke of his hope in Jesus. He shared the Gospel in terms that felt meaningful and powerful in the context of our demonstration. And then he asked everyone to raise their right hands and pray with him — in the name of Jesus — over the campus. It was amazing. I was honored to be able to witness it and say “Amen” with him at the end of his prayer.

Many others spoke, and I didn’t get home until five o’clock to grab a quick bite to eat with my family and then bike back to campus for our regular Thursday evening Bible studies. But even though I felt simultaneously wore down and winded up by the day’s events, I’m really glad that I joined the demonstration on campus. I’m praying that God’s Kingdom will come and His will might be done on the campus of Kent State University, as it is in Heaven.

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