Over 200 people gathered in Atwood Mall at SCSU on Tuesday evening for the #StCloudUNITED event, just three short days after the attacks at Crossroads Center by previous SCSU student, Dahir Adan.
The idea for the event came after the Somali Student Association contacted Student Government on Monday morning, wanting to collaborate on a peaceful celebration in light of the recent occurrences.
“We didn’t know what kind of event we wanted,” Randy Olson, Vice President of Student Government said. “But this is just about unity. It’s about building a bridge where I think people didn’t think there was one.”
Olsen said numerous organizations were happy to support the event, as well as community leaders.
Among the leaders was SCSU Interim President, Ashish Vaidya, who spoke proudly of the student leaders who organized the rally, as well as those gathered in Atwood Mall. “We are a family, a community, and we draw strength from each other,” he said.
Vaidya, along with SCSU Public Safety emphasized the importance of safety on campus. They repeated that they want SCSU to be a place where students and the community feel safe, not where they live in fear. Public Safety also reminded all students they are available 24/7 and are more than willing to escort anyone to their vehicles or the buildings on campus after dark, or anytime one feels uncomfortable walking by themselves.
St. Cloud Mayor, Dave Kleis, said how proud he was of the outpouring of support from those at the community level, as well as at the national and international levels.
“The calls I’ve received internationally, the emails, stand with this community,” Kleis said.
Kleis abruptly decided to switch the role of questions to the audience, as he said he had been asked too many questions over the past few days, “I want to ask you a few questions,” he said.
“Are we strong? Are we united? Are we re-committed to building communities?” “YES.” you could hear the diverse crowd chanting as they cheered after Kleis’ statement.
Olsen commented that students should get involved on campus and get out of their comfort zone to help promote positivity. “There are so many events happening on campus with every organization,” he said. “Cultural nights, student org meetings. Random acts of getting involved where you normally wouldn’t see yourself,” he said.
When St. Cloud Police Chief, Blair Anderson took the podium, there was a somewhat silenced, calm effect over the crowd as they awaited his words. “Be the change you want to see in this world,” said Anderson. “Be an ambassador all the time for peace, for stability, for goodwill, for kindness towards your fellow humankind,” he said.
Anderson quoted one of his favorite poems, by Maya Angelou, “People forget what you do. In time, they forget what you say. But they never forget how you make them feel.”
His last two words that gave the crowd a loud cheer before he stepped down, “I’m out.”
The rally was followed immediately by a Unity Walk in which student leaders stepped out with a banner that every attendee was asked to sign. As the students and community marched on, you could hear the words, “The People. United. Will Never Be Divided,” bellow out of their mouths.
Small group discussions were led afterward in Atwood Mall so people could voice their thoughts and concerns over the recent attacks.