Racism is a dividing force that has affected American lives and caused distrust between citizens and the government.

In turn, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement emerged to recognize the discrimination, prejudice, and violence which affects Black Americans at disproportionate rates. The movement is not only an acknowledgment of racial inequality, but it’s also a mechanism for advocacy in civil rights.

Holding conversations that revolve around sensitive matters is difficult, but necessary. The Peacemakers Club was able to open the dialogue and held a forum to discuss the BLM movement and recent Clarksville protests.

Guest speakers were present at the virtual event and shared their experiences with racial injustices.

Student Government Association President, Kito Aruh, spoke at the event and shed light on his interactions with racism. Aruh also discussed how the Unity Step event, which was recently held by the SGA, was a call-to-action to the mission of equality.

Along with President Aruh, Maurice Stegall, who is a community organizer in Clarksville, was also present at the event. With his former ten years of experience, Stegall dedicated most of his summer to protesting with BLM on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard. Stegall protested for ninety-three days straight and played a major part in inspiring the voice of the BLM Clarksville protests.

With the recent Tennessee law targeted towards protest activity, Senate Bill 8005, and with the general disinterest in politics, the BLM community on campus may feel discouraged.

However, Stegall recommends that students become civically engaged and unite to cause change. Voting in this election is highly important. Protests only have power when they are backed with votes.

Asia Long, another Clarksville community organizer, also spoke at the meeting. Long and Stegall are active in efforts with voter registration, the Clarksville Summit, and BLM.

Although Stegall and Long are working on local voter registration in Clarksville, campus efforts are also in the works. On September 30th, the APSU HR Department is hosting, “Civic Engagement 101 – Elections and You,” with Dr. Kevin Baron as a moderator. The workshop will be on Zoom from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Central Time. The Zoom link, along with more information, can be found at apsu.edu/vote.

Campus members should also reach out to the Peacemakers Club if they want to connect with Stegall, Long, or hear more about social and racial justice. The Peacemakers Club plans to host more events on similar topics in the future. Engaging in these kinds of discussions brings us closer as a campus even when we must social distance.

After all, as Stegall would say, “You can’t have a community without unity.”