chanting begins

In light of recent events surrounding our Rutgers Women’s Basketball team and the comments made by Don Imus (If you’re new to the blog see here, here, here, here, and here), this afternoon a rally was held on Douglas in support of the team and in protest of Don Imus. Never being one to avoid a potential media circus, and as a strong supporter of the team through this whole controversy, I decided to check it out. What I found was a group of very strong, smart people who were responding with class to the terrible comments. Keep reading for a complete rundown of the day’s events, and click here to see a pretty large collection of photos.

setting up camera stands
satellites, ready to beamWhen I first showed up at around 1:10 pm (the rally was scheduled for 1:30), I took notice of the amount of media present. As I approached the main area, I could see that the media actually outnumbered the number of people at the rally. More importantly, over double the amount of media showed up today than on the day of the championship. Where were all these trucks when the women were at the peak of their achievement? It’s amazing how newspeople can just brush off a great accomplishment, but when controversy stems from it, suddenly it’s real news.
1010 WINS interview

Do you think they're filming each other?

Anyway, getting back to the day, I took out my camera and started snapping photos. Signs were being given out for free, but I chose not to take one so I could have both hands free for my camera. I wore my sweatshirt and hat, and I think I looked more like a newsman than like a protester. That was fine with me; although I supported the cause, I was mostly there to observe. I clapped when I agreed with something, but I was mostly there to observe.

filming a sign

free signs

After a decent amount of people had showed up, some girls with signs formed a circle and started chanting. They were swarmed by the cameramen as they did a few funny chants. Interestingly, the chants were not ones of protest to Imus, but rather in support of our women. This was a theme throughout the day. Instead of just focusing on the evil, they wanted to celebrate the good of the girls on our team. I was very pleased to see this route taken, it seems we are just taking the high road through this whole ordeal.

cameras 2

first speakerAfter not too long, it was time to gather around the podium area for speeches. The lineup of cameras and microphones was very impressive. The first speaker was the head of the IWL (International Women’s Leadership) Center at Douglass (Thanks, Karina).  She was a white woman, but her speech was met with plenty of “mm-hms” from the mostly black audience.  I stress race in this post because I want to show that it wasn’t just a black-white issue.  People of all races came together in support of our team.  You didn’t have to be black to be hurt by the things that were said, and the wonderful diversity of the crowd proved that. Following her was State Senator Nia Gill (photo below).

state senator Nia Gill

sign girl in front of meMrs. Gill spoke with a fire in her voice that all of the other speakers lacked. She was mad and she made it known. Her speech discussed boycotting the sponsors of Imus’s show and her plans to introduce a bill to the NJ Senate to make sure the state no longer supports those sponsors. Of course, she also spoke about the strength of the team and the pride of being a black woman, and I have to say that as a white man, I felt her. I felt her pride and found myself hooting and clapping with her speech. She was just that good, her message transcended race. The Nelson Mandela quote she ended on made me feel as if it meant as much to me as it did to each and every other person in that crowd.

faculty look on

president of the naacp at rutgersAfter Nia spoke, the student president of the NAACP chapter at Rutgers made a decent speech. Following her was a history professor who made her speech as a woman and as a fan of the basketball team. Her message was fantastic; she said that if you really want to support the team, fill the RAC next year. Because after we beat Imus, we still have UConn, Duke, and Tennessee to worry about. I loved that she brought the whole issue back to basketball. She may not have been a fiery speaker, but her message was strong enough that it had me cheering. I think the girl in front of me actually gave me a weird look for cheering so loud, but can you blame me? I love basketball.

History professor and basketball fan

waiting their turn to speakFollowing them were a few Black fraternity presidents, as well as the president of the Black Student Coalition. They were OK speakers, but it was clear they were still students. They lacked a lot of the passion the faculty had. Another reason is that this has been transformed from a race issue to a sex issue. It was clear today that the focus has been shifted. In their press conference yesterday, Essence Carson said, “As a society we’re trying to get to the point where we don’t classify women as hos.” The race issue has fallen to the side and the sexist, misogynistic nature of the comment has come to the forefront. More than a comment on blacks, this really was a comment on women. The female speakers, both white and black, made that clear today. In a world where women have come so far, in sports especially, to talk about them like this is just unthinkable, no matter what the race. The fact that he added racism to the comment just made it worse.

rutgers women strong women

great speech giverThe final speech I listened to was by a black History professor. She opened with the line, “When I heard the comment by Mr. Imus, it made my nappy stick straight up!” Which understandable earned a roar from the crowd. She went on to give a history of the oppression that black women have faced in America since they first arrived here, and stressed the point that for so long, they weren’t allowed to do anything about it. They were mistreated for centuries and never had any way to make themselves heard. But now, she stated, they could do something about it, and they were doing something about it. This was the second best speech of the day, but after it I was getting sore from kneeling (I was right up front with the other photographers) so I decided to call it quits.

sign calling out sponsors

rally under the treeThe rally was a fantastic success, and everyone involved in it should be proud. The speakers pushed for Imus’s dismissal, and if not that, for a boycott on his sponsors by supporters of the cause. They expressed pride and gratitude toward the women’s team and encouraged those of us at the rally to support the girls in whatever they do. Although as a white male I was certainly in the minority at the event, there was no real race involved.  It was just a group of supporters of every color coming together to show our love for the team. It was a very positive atmosphere, and I hope all the media I saw there give it the attention it deserves.

getting on my bus, leaving the rally