Castleton University’s NAACP Student Chapter hosted a ceremony on Feb. 28 to retire the original Black Lives Matter flag that flies on campus and raised a new flag while reflecting on the work the community has done – while also acknowledging there is still work to do.
The event, which was co-hosted in partnership with the Student Government Association, kicked off with a parade through campus. The crowd then gathered in Herrick Auditorium to hear remarks from NAACP Chapter leaders and others.
“The flag was just a great symbol to show that Castleton does not tolerate any type of hate or abuse of any kind,” said Raynolds Awusi ’21, who was instrumental in the creation of Castleton’s NAACP chapter and getting the Black Lives Matter flag raised. "It shows a bond in this community that can’t be broken, no matter what your beliefs are.”
The original Black Lives Matter flag was raised in October 2020.
In his remarks, Awusi said that racial issues are not just a trending topic and encouraged everyone in attendance who wants to learn more about diversity, equity, and racial justice to do research to expand their knowledge and understanding.
Tajae Edwards, president of Castleton’s NAACP Chapter, reminded everyone that “all that glitters is not gold” and shared a call to action, challenging everyone in attendance to ensure that they not only say they support Students of Color, but that their actions align with their words.
“This parade and this ceremony are important and symbolic. It symbolizes a commitment to change, diversity, and inclusion. It is a symbol to every Black student who wonders every day when they leave their homes, dorm rooms, etc. what issues they will encounter solely based on the color of their skin,” he said. “We want to give no room for this movement to be a moment because Black people face these struggles and dangers every day.”
Ryan Boeke, SGA president, reflected on his experience at the first flag raising and what the flag symbolizes today.
“We are here to celebrate all of our hard work, but at the same time we must look to the future, past this event, and figure out how to continue to honor the flag and the students it represents,” he said. “When we lower the Black Lives Matter flag today, we intend to honor and showcase all that the flag stood for. When we raise the new flag today, it will symbolize the change we wish to continue to see on campus."
Gillian Galle, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, shared that the re-raising of the flag “is a reminder that its message is still relevant. That it is still needed. That there is still work for us as a community and as individuals to do.”
Following remarks, the group gathered around the flagpole near Jeffords Auditorium to lower the original Black Lives Matter flag – which will be proudly displayed in the Campus Center before being moved to the Castleton Archives – and raise a new flag, which was done by Edwards and Matt Patry, director of student activities.