Students stand in solidarity at Where is the Love March

Last week, University of San Diego students and faculty gathered to walk, march, and pray in solidarity at the Where is the Love March and Vigil. Those who joined the event marched from the Student Life Pavilion (SLP) to the courtyard adjacent to Founders Chapel and concluded with the weekly Mass For Peace. The march was organized by sophomore students Stephen Jordan and Luke Garrett who were inspired to spread love throughout the USD community in response to the most recent Executive Orders.

Garrett explained the importance of student action in attending on-campus events such as this.

Members of the USD community stood together with candles and posters to spread their love on campus.

“The reason for creating this march was to give voice and action to our university’s commitment to show love and welcome all of the refugees and immigrants on our campus and in our community in the greater San Diego area,” Garrett said. “We just felt that student action was really needed. It’s important that students attend this event because community is defined by the student body. With students attending this event, hopefully, that will give our community a more welcoming essence so refugees can feel comfortable here to express themselves, share, and trust.”

The march began with student speakers outside the SLP who gave testimonies of different immigrants’ stories and struggles. The United Front Multicultural Center (UFMC) set up a booth with posters and postcards set out for those in attendance to fill out and send to their congressional leaders.

Sophomore Bayunamu Bawa explained the purpose of the postcard writing.

“It was an initiative started by the UFMC and the Women’s Center and some other organizations to get people to actually take action by writing what they care about and mailing it to their home senators,” Bawa said. “It is important because it is taking action. We can have many marches, but we, as constituents of our Senators, they need to know how we feel.”

Bawa believes that solidarity means caring about issues that do not always affect you.

“Change can really be made when people care about stuff that doesn’t affect them,” Bawa said. “Because it is mostly marginalized groups and when dominant groups don’t care, nothing will change. But when people in majority groups realize these things are not cool, obviously people with the larger number can do something.”

After the introduction, there was a moment of silence in which members of the USD community stood together holding hands. The march started inside the SLP as the chant “stand tall, love all” rang throughout the walls of the pavilion. Freshman Patrick Bonner said that this was the most memorable part of the march.

Members of the USD community stood together with candles and posters to spread their love on campus.

“[The march through the SLP] was memorable because we were walking around while everyone was at dinner, and it was spontaneous, and no one saw it coming,” Bonner said.

The march continued through Torero Way to outside Founders Chapel, where speakers explained the importance of solidarity as everyone held candles and gathered for the vigil. Chair and Associate Professor for Theology and Religious Studies Emily Reimer-Barry was the first of two speakers that night.

“I am here today to show solidarity with students,” Reimer-Barry said. “I am especially concerned about students who felt that the Executive Orders are discriminatory and make them feel unsafe. I want to show that I am here to support them and that the people in my department are really concerned about the safety of immigrants, refugees, and all students of color. We just want to show our support.”

Reimer-Barry commented on the march attendance from the USD community.

“I think it is great for students and faculty to do stuff like this collaboratively,” Reimer-Barry said. “I think there is a lot of common ground. It is fun to see the joint activism, and if there are areas of disagreement, then it is an opportunity for dialogue.”

She explained that her speech was a theological reflection on what it means to be a Christian changemaker in the context of a Trump administration.

“Solidarity to me means not just a feeling of empathy for someone, but actually striving to make the world a better place,” Reimer-Barry said. “So thinking about your actions everyday and what you are doing to make the world a better place.”

Sophomore Kiana Lindsay was the student speaker for one of the testimonies at the beginning of the march. Lindsay explained what it meant for her to speak on behalf of another’s story.

“I am a person who has a lot of privilege and part of that is using your privilege to help people and build up others who don’t have the same level of privilege that you do,” Lindsay said. “I personally have not been affected in my own life, but, as a Tijuana day trip leader, I get to see first-hand the crushing effects of immigration and how it can tear people’s worlds and families apart. It is very real to me and something that I see all the time. You feel really helpless when you see that and so you try to do everything you can possibly do to not just be passive.”

After the second speech was given by Marc Adams of University Ministry, the Mass for Peace concluded the evening’s gathering. The homily was shared by Associate Provost for Inclusion and Diversity and Associate Professor of Communication Studies Esteban del Río, PhD, who brought forth the idea of institutional sin within our society.

Co-organizer of the march and vigil Stephen Jordan stated that this event was definitely a marathon and not a sprint.

“The story of the moment of silence at the airport transferred to the moment of silence at the SLP,” Jordan said. “It was cool to see everybody holding hands and [being] in peace. It was beautiful marching with everybody, especially in the SLP. People were talking about it afterward and the fact that it was not a protest of hate and emotion. It was more about celebrating love. We really want love to be poured out in a lot of different places in this community at USD.”

Jordan explained that he believes solidarity is about meeting people where they are at.

“Leading this march, Luke and I, as two white, privileged males, do not want to be the face of this,” Jordan said. “We want the people who have been working on this for a long time to be the face, but for us to be holding hands with them and standing side-by-side in solidarity.”

Jordan shared that he hopes this will be a great opportunity for USD members to experience solidarity with those outside of the community.

“Life is love, and joy is spread faster through a communal effort, rather than an individual,” Jordan said.

In an effort to spread these positive messages throughout communities both on and off campus, the Where is the Love March/Vigil was the first step of many to encourage students to practice peace, solidarity, and love.