It still hasn’t hit me.
Ten years ago, if someone would have told me I would be the University of Mississippi’s 27th Rhodes Scholar or its first black female Rhodes Scholar, I would have told them that they had a better chance of winning the jackpot at the casino, one of Tunica’s illusionary beacons of hope.
However, what has hit me is the overwhelming amount of love I’ve received from my UM family. From hundreds of messages and social media comments to congratulatory calls from distinguished alumni and the chancellor, I’ve never felt as supported or more a part of the UM community.
The opportunity to study at the University of Oxford, England as a Rhodes Scholar is a great accomplishment; however, December brings a much bigger opportunity for our beloved university and our great state. It brings an opportunity for all students and faculty, especially African Americans, to feel more welcomed and supported as important members of the UM family and as citizens of Mississippi.
Nine months ago, five students and I sat in a small board room in the Croft Institute for International Studies and co-wrote a student body resolution to recommend that the Confederate monument be relocated from the Circle, the heart of our campus, to the Confederate cemetery on campus. This resolution, which garnered support from many university constituent groups with varying ideologies, passed unanimously in the Associated Student Body Senate on March 5. The resolution and the student-led movements that accompanied it broke national news and ignited the process for the statue’s relocation.
On Aug. 27, the university submitted plans to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) to relocate and reinstall the Confederate monument. These plans were initially scheduled to be reviewed and voted on at MDAH’s October meeting. However, in a statement from the Provost, the University community was informed that “with the complexity of the move, both the development and the review of the specs have taken longer than anticipated” and that MDAH is “on track” for voting on the plans at their December meeting.
At 10 a.m. on Friday at the Winters Building in Jackson, the Board of Trustees of the Department of Archives and History will finally meet to vote on UM’s relocation plans for the Confederate monument.
To best support me, students like me and the future of UM, I am urging all members of the UM community — students, staff, faculty and alumni —- to either attend this public meeting on Dec. 6 or call MDAH at 601-576-6850 and demand that the board approves the university’s plans to relocate the monument to the Confederate cemetery.
The University of Mississippi is my home. Here, I have grown into the Rhodes Scholar I am today. I have a love for this place and the people in it. When you love something, you have to balance accepting it for what it is while also challenging it to become the best that it can be. The University of Mississippi has a rich history, and it has not always been on the right side of it.
However, if we begin the work toward true racial reconciliation, it has the potential to live up to the namesake that it carries as Mississippi’s flagship institution and to set an example for the rest of the world. This work begins with the relocation of the Confederate statue, and it takes all of us to see it through.
Arielle Hudson is a senior English Education major from Tunica, Mississippi.