Jessica Branks, News Editor • email@example.com
On Saturday, February 3, members of the Emory & Henry student body and faculty were recognized for their work in social justice. They were also recognized for bringing positive change to the campus environment. The Social Justice Awards Ceremony was organized hosted by the Inclusion & Dialogue (I.D.) Center, and was attended by students, faculty and alumni.
The awards ceremony was held on the two-year anniversary of the founding of INCITES; a student movement which called attention to racial tension on the E&H campus. In 2016, the students of INCITES organized a walk-out and peaceful protest to share personal accounts of racial bias, and to express their frustration about the lack of response from administration.
Ana Rampy, a junior from Alexandria, Virginia, was a founding member of the INCITES movement in 2016. “When I first got here I really had been sold into the idea of the ‘Emory family,” Rampy said, reflecting on her freshman year. “I had an expectation that my identity would not be called into question at any point.”
Essence Smith, a recent graduate from E&H and another founding member of INCITES, was the keynote speaker at the awards ceremony. Her speech centered around the events leading up to the 2016 INCITES protest. Smith talked about the members themselves, from their emotional states to their personal struggles.
“We were freshmen who barely made it through the semester without being vilified in classrooms, but we were also seniors so jaded with the idea of fighting for equality, the effort was truly coming from the reserves,” said Smith in her speech.
The 2016 INCITES protest compiled a list of demands, which was presented directly to College President Jake Schrum. The creation of an Inclusion & Dialogue Center was on that list, and a permanent director was hired for the program late last year. The students who helped to make this proposal a reality were recognized with a plaque at the awards ceremony. That plaque now sits in the I.D. Center amongst a library of books on social issues and diversity.
Patricia Gonzalez is the Director of Inclusion & Diversity at E&H, and she presented awards alongside student Emaly Allison on February 3. “The [I.D.] center perhaps would not have existed if we did not have a diversity task force, but also INCITES students who said we need a space that’s safe space,” said Gonzalez.
While INCITES and the Diversity Task Force were the larger groups honored at the event, many other individuals also received awards for their work surrounding inclusion, diversity, and social justice. According to Emaly Allison, the Student Programming Coordinator in the I.D. Center, the awards were meant to “thank all the students and faculty and people on this campus who have tried for so long to make a difference or make change, but have never been honored for it.” Over 60 students, faculty and staff received recognition.
While the Social Justice Awards Ceremony was not named after INCITES, it decidedly took place in honor of the movement and the changes that INCITES initiated on campus in 2016.
“The Social Justice Awards Ceremony was such a validation for the struggles that INCITES had gone through, [and] that other people who are not part of INCITES didn’t feel like they had a voice, and now they do,” said Rampy.