Updated July, 20, 2020.
Chancellor Glenn Boyce agreed to meet with nine Black student leaders on campus this afternoon. Nicholas Crasta, Amirah Lockhart, Jailien Grant, DeArrius Rhymes, Re’Kia Fairley, Candace Bolden, Asia Eichelberger, Chinwe Udemgba and Zuri Dixon Omere sent Boyce a letter requesting the meeting and condemning updates to the Confederate cemetery last week.
After the university confirmed on July 17 that headstones will no longer be installed in the cemetery, the nine student leaders revised the list of issues that they intend to discuss with Boyce.
“Now we’re aimed more at preventing future issues by asking for more transparency and more minority student representation,” Crasta, president of the Black Student Union, said.
Over the past month, dozens of campus constituencies at the University of Mississippi have made public statements in opposition to the university’s plan to update its Confederate cemetery and install headstones. The first major step of this plan was to relocate the Confederate monument from the Circle to the cemetery’s entrance, which was completed on Tuesday, July 14 without contention from the university community.
University administrators have not yet clarified which aspects of the renovation plan they expect to execute, but on the same day that the Confederate monument was re-erected outside of the cemetery, Chancellor Glenn Boyce issued a statement that said “excavating within the walls of the cemetery presents a significant risk of disturbing remains. This is not a risk (he is) prepared nor willing to take.” Some members of the university community and news outlets, including The Oxford Eagle, interpreted this statement to mean that the previously proposed headstones will no longer be installed in the cemetery.
Now, amid the uncertainty, leaders of nine of the largest Black student organizations on campus have issued a joint statement for release through The Daily Mississippian denouncing any further upgrades to the Confederate cemetery and demanding a meeting with Chancellor Boyce on Monday, July 20.
The authors of the statement are the presidents of the Black Student Union (BSU), The University of Mississippi Black Caucus (UMBC), the university’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Men of Excellence (MOX), E.S.T.E.E.M, the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), the University of Mississippi Gospel Choir (UMGC), I.M.A.G.E and the Minority Association for Pre-Medical Students (MAPS).
See the full statement below:
To Chancellor Glenn Boyce,
We, Black student leaders here at the University of Mississippi, are writing this open letter because we wholly condemn your proposed relocation plan for the Confederate monument. The details of your leaked relocation plan plainly demonstrate that you do not care at all about the lives of our African-American community on this campus. If you did, your relocation plan would simply seek to move the Confederate monument to the neglected Civil War cemetery on campus. Instead, your plan aims to upgrade the cemetery to a $1.15 million Lost Cause shrine after relocating the monument there — the latter of which was completed yesterday. Your proposed relocation plan, then, intends to continue the university’s long tradition of mythologizing Civil War history and glorifying white supremacy. It is for this reason that you must abandon your plan to beautify the cemetery.
Furthermore, it has come to our attention that the person behind these efforts to transform the cemetery into a shrine to white supremacy is the current chair of the Working Group for the University of Mississippi Cemetery, Don Barrett. A recent story by Mississippi Free Press quotes him and another member of the working group, Will Lewis, as saying, “It matters not one bit that the headstone of a particular soldier may not be over the exact spot that his body was placed,” when advocating for the placement of historically inaccurate headstones in the cemetery. We are here to say that it certainly does matter to our community. As the university’s own Center for Civil War Research wrote in their public statement to the administration: “the proposed headstones and relocated Confederate monument together would glorify racist Lost Cause ideology rather than tell the story of the Civil War at the University of Mississippi.” Since members of the Working Group for the University of Mississippi Cemetery advocated for this racist renovation to the cemetery, among other ones, we demand that you disband this working group immediately.
We cannot sit idly by while people like you continue to devalue our lives and presence here on this campus. As Black student leaders, we feel obligated to speak out on behalf of the organizations that we represent. Further, as students here, we see it as our duty to represent our university by the standards that have been outlined in the UM Creed, with the first being that “I believe in respect for the dignity of each person.” Therefore, we, the undersigned, demand to meet with you next week on Monday, July 20, 2020, to discuss both what you plan to do to address each of these concerns that we raised above and what your future plans are to show that you actually value the dignity of the persons belonging to our community.
Nicholas Crasta, President, BSU
Amirah Lockhart, President, UMBC
Jailien Grant, President, NAACP
DeArrius Rhymes, President, MOX
Re’Kia Fairley, President, E.S.T.E.E.M.
Candace Bolden, President, NPHC
Asia Eichelberger, President, UMGC
Chinwe Udemgba, President, I.M.A.G.E.
Zuri Dixon Omere, President, MAPS