The Texas heat didn’t keep over 100 people from walking one and a half miles in a march in solidarity.
Southwestern Adventist University on May 29 hosted the “March in Solidarity: Celebration of Diversity,” inviting all to celebrate the diversity on their campus.
“One of the values we have at Southwestern Adventist University is that we value the image of God in all humanity,” President Ken Shaw said. “As a result we treat each individual with respect and seek opportunities to work together for good of all humanity. One of the reasons we’re marching today is to celebrate the diversity that we have on this campus. We are a minority-serving institution. We see that every student is a child of God and we love them all. As we have experienced the terrible racial injustices over the past several months brings us to the second reason that we’re marching today.
“It is time to stand up and say enough is enough. As a Christian university, racism goes against our very core. Today we walk in solidarity to treat people like Jesus would. Today we walk in unity to stand for what is right and what is good. Today we walk in harmony desiring an end of racial injustices and discrimination.”
The march, which began at the historical Mizpah Gate, included eight stops at different landmarks on the campus. Each stop featured a different speaker and students and recent graduates conducting prayers.
Two common threads were evident throughout all the speeches: it is time for a change and it is time to speak up.
At the first stop, Chan Shun Centennial Library, Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists President Calvin Watkins spoke.
“Martin Luther King says our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that really matter,” he said. “I’m so glad here on this campus, at this beacon of learning that we have decided not to be silent about things that matter. It matters that a man can have his knee on another man’s neck while the other man cries out, ‘I can’t breathe’ and then calls for his mama.
“It matters that a 75-year-old white man marching peacefully can be pushed to the ground and police will walk past and no one will assist him and now he’s in the hospital with brain trauma. It matters that a man can run away and be shot several times in the back. It matters that all men are not looked upon as people.
“It matters that even in some segments of our church there is segregation still. It matters when we do not accept God’s calling upon our life to speak truth to injustice. The moment we become silent when it comes to the matters that are important is the moment we begin to die.”
Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists President Carlos Craig took the microphone at the rotunda, which was circled with battery-operated tea lights for participants to pick up and march with.
“I think that is the greatest tragedy in society today,” he said. “That there are so many children, so many young people, so many adults that don’t have anyone to stand for them. Today we stand for those who have no one. We have a God who heals a broken heart. We have a God who has sent you and I to be extensions of himself in this society.”
At the clocktower, new Keene Police Chief Brad Hunt addressed, “Now is the Time.”
“It’s really hard to speak from a heart that’s broken,” Hunt said. “A 25-year career where you try to treat people with respect, compassion and dignity and you see the events that occur to George Floyd and it’s disgusting to a good cop. I need to speak on it now being the time.
“We’re in front of the clock indicating that it’s time for a change. Now’s the time for good cops to step forward and take action and not stand by silently as three others who — didn’t even know what they were thinking — did when George Floyd was being murdered. It’s past time to do this. The time for bad cops has passed.
“They need to get out, step back, go find another job, stop breaking the trust, stop embarrassing me personally and every other good cop who’s out there spending countless hours a day, millions of contacts a day nationwide to try to build trust to see it all washed away in one wave. It hurts us. Good cops are hurting.”
Hunt said that as chief it is his job to treat his officers with respect, dignity, compassion and empathy, so that they reflect those traits in how they act in the community and how they treat people.
“The respect and dignity and compassion that they get treated with, they will treat others with,” he said.
After Hunt’s speech, SWAU Assistant Dean of Women/Counselor Ann Jobity spoke about the cafeteria, where students of all nationalities gather while school is in session.
“When I sit in this cafeteria I think of the welcome table,” she said. “When we get to heaven there is going to be one welcome table. I want to be sitting at that welcome table. How about you? Where are you going to be sitting when that time comes? Where are your kids going to be sitting?”
The electronic sign in front of the university broadcast a flashing message of unity. In front of it, SWAU Vice President James The spoke about “Love is our Sign.”
“My mantra this year is not about winning souls for the kingdom,” The said. “It’s about saving lives today so that every man and woman will have the opportunity to win souls for the kingdom.
“Romans 12:10 says, ‘honor one another in love.’ That’s easy to do because we’re taught to do that. The second part is the tough part for a lot of us. The second part ends by saying, ‘giving preference to your neighbor.’ Honor one another in love, holding your neighbor up above yourself.”
The message of love continued at Barron Chapel, where SWAU Assistant Professor of Religion Buster Swoopes spoke on “A New Commandment” next to the 10 Commandments statue.
“Anyone who is near you is your neighbor. We are neighbors of each other despite our races, despite our languages, despite our origins, despite where we are born ... we are neighbors,” Swoopes said. “This goes a little bit farther. We are neighbors because we are all human beings.
“We’re not neighbors just because of proximity, even though right now we are physically distant we are socially closer than we have ever been before because the Holy Spirit has been poured out and called us to stand together, to march together because we are all neighbors.
“That means that whatever happens in Minneapolis, Minnesota, happens here in Keene, Texas, because George Floyd is my neighbor. Because the cop that spoke today and called for good cops to stand up and for bad cops to be called out, he is my neighbor. We are each other’s neighbors.”
At the Larry R. Moore Nursing & Administration Building, SWAU Chaplin April Synder spoke about “All Nations,” followed by SWAU Vice President Russ Laughlin.
Laughlin detailed the history of a building that carries the artwork of three angels on it.
“The building has changed but the artwork has not because the three angels’ message has not changed, year after year after year,” he said. “It is still the core of who we are. We talk about that. We have artistic drawings and sayings. We have sermons about the three angels’ message and we focus on the message but we often forget who the message is for. We stand today because our mission has not changed. Our calling has not changed.”
SWAU Athletic Director and Mens Basketball Coach Tyler Wooldridge read Revelations 14:6, “And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world — to every nation, tribe, language, and people.”
“An everlasting and eternal gospel,” Laughlin said. “And who is it for? Every nation, every tongue, every tribe, every people. We have a responsibility to share the very good news that a Jewish man lived and died because he came down from heaven to be our Messiah. The Messiah for every single being on this Earth. We have a calling my friends, to stand together to tell the good news to this world. That’s what Southwestern Adventist University exists.”
The march wrapped up where it began, the Mizpah Gate, which was officially dedicated as a national Texas monument in 2009.
Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Vice President Buddy Griffith was the final speaker.
“The new normal is that there will be an intolerance to social injustice, to any man, woman, boy or girl of any group, of any culture,” Griffith said. “Our coming together proclaims that we will no longer abide by the cruelties that we see inflicted on any group of people. We’ve got to come together and understand that we are all one people, that we all come from the same God. Jesus Christ died for all of mankind. He gave his life that we may have a chance for eternal life. He places a tremendous value on every individual, man, woman or child, regardless of race or creed.
“We are all his people. We don’t have a right, we don’t have the privilege to treat each other otherwise than Jesus has taught us to treat each other and live for him. Jesus Christ takes offense when we mistreat each other.”