‘We Can Beat This Together’
Bucknellians speak out for meaningful change in turbulent times
by Sherri Kimmel
Local business owner Nisan Trotter ’05 speaks at a Lewisburg rally on June 13.
Photo: Emily Paine
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Local business owner Nisan Trotter ’05 speaks at a Lewisburg rally on June 13.
Nisan Trotter ’05 paced the gazebo stage in Lewisburg’s Hufnagle Park on June 13, looking out over a crowd of 500 people representing, as he observed, “Generation Z, mixed with baby boomers, mixed with millennials — all holding Black Lives Matter signs. The Moral Majority can no longer be the silent majority. We all need to fight systemic racism.”

While Trotter and Atakora Appiah-Padi ’20 were two Bucknellians who spoke at the park rally sponsored by the local social justice organization If Not Us, Then Who?, other members of the Bucknell community were expressing themselves by other means, with a focus on how Bucknell could more actively address racial injustice, diversity, equity and inclusion.

Many in the Bucknell community were among the more than 5,000 who by mid-June had added their names to a petition on Change.org calling for Bucknell to release a stronger statement against racism and to share an action plan. Student and faculty groups also sent requests for specific actions to University leadership.

On June 15, Bucknell issued a statement proclaiming that “Black lives do matter at Bucknell.” In a message titled “Actions to Support Diverse Communities,” President John Bravman and Board of Trustees Chair Chris O’Brien ’80, P’18, P’20 committed to bringing “all members of our community together to build a learning and work environment that is inclusive in fact and not merely in rhetoric.”

One of the immediate actions they said Bucknell would take was to add the associate provost for diversity, equity & inclusion to the president’s leadership team. Currently, Professor Thelathia “Nikki” Young, women’s & gender studies and religion, serves as the interim.

In an essay in the Winter 2020 issue of Bucknell Magazine, Young wrote that regarding diversity, equity and inclusion, “we [at Bucknell] have work to do: relationships to repair and/or build, behaviors to shift, policies to change, an environment to reshape and more.”

Bravman and O’Brien’s statement delineated some tangible ways to do that work, including the creation of an anti-racism fund to support campus-wide anti-racism and anti-bias efforts and incorporating the study of injustice and inequality across the curriculum.

Another Bucknell leadership group, the Bucknell University Alumni Association (BUAA) board of directors, also issued a statement in mid-June. “We wanted to harness the emotion and spirit of our members who want to step up and affect intentional change at Bucknell and within our alumni community,” says Christine Zapotocky Kelleher ’91, who became board president on July 1.

Trotter, too, is eager to see change at Bucknell and far beyond. After his rally appeal, he noted, “I believe the most important thing in my message was to express that ‘Yes we’re tired, but we are not tired enough to stop. I believe the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in rapid succession highlighted the vile nature of racism in America. These tragic episodes have brought more Americans to the forefront, championing this need for change. I do believe we can beat this together rather than apart.”

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Read the Bravman/O’Brien and BUAA statements go.bucknell.edu/SupportingDiverseCommunities and go.bucknell.edu/BUAAupdate