A student united her college campus and community through a Peace Rally on September 29, 2016 in Batesville, Arkansas. Taylor Donnerson felt that the tragic events were dividing the United States so she wanted to set a peaceful atmosphere in the community.
Problems and Purpose
The Peace Rally was held on September 29, 2016 on the Lyon College campus in Batesville, Arkansas. The purpose of the peace rally was to establish peace both on campus and in the community through speeches, poems, and a display of unity among the students, faculty, and community members such as the Mayor, Police Chief and church liaisons . Taylor Donnerson realized that the many shootings during the summer of 2016 in the U.S. such as those at the Orlando gay night club, of Dallas police officers, and of African American males were dividing the nation. Ms. Donnerson did not want the national issues to also divide her community.
Background History and Context
The Lyon College campus and community previously faced campus-wide issues on sexual orientation, flying of the confederate flag, and inclusion but the issues had been addressed . In the summer of 2016, there were many shootings in the U.S. Three African American males, Delrawn Small, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile were all killed over the course of three days by police officers . Twelve officers were then shot in Dallas during a protest. Five officers lost their lives . Forty-nine people were murdered at a gay nightclub in Orlando. It is considered to be the worst mass shooting in modern American history . The nation divided on issues of racism, police brutality, and sexual orientation. Taylor Donnerson, a junior in college, felt that the issues could potentially also divide her community.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Taylor Donnerson was Lyon College’s Campus Ministry and Black Students Association president. She took her concerns and ideas to the college Chaplain and Campus Ministry Advisor, Reverend McCalla. The two independently brainstormed on how the college campus could address the issues before the students returned for the fall semester . The participating organizations were Lyon College Campus Ministry, Black Students Association, and Spectra Alliance. Campus Ministry funded the Peace Rally. Taylor Donnerson spoke on behalf of Campus Ministry, Ridge Hester, vice president, spoke on behalf of the Black Student Association, and Paige, vice president, spoke on behalf of Spectra Alliance. College Administrators such as the Dean of Students Patrick Mulick and the Provost Philip Cavalier spoke on behalf of the faculty and staff. Community members such as the Mayor Rick Elumbaugh, Police Chief Alan Cockrill and church liaison Slayton Thompson from Bethel AME also spoke .
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Before the event, Taylor Donnerson and Chaplin McCalla put up flyers on campus and in the community to advertise the event. The event was also posted on the Lyon College and Campus Ministry pages. Taylor Donnerson did an interview with the college’s marketing team to promote and give more information on the event. The interview was published on the Lyon College school website and Facebook account. The rest of the promotion was through word of mouth. Chaplin McCalla scheduled the rally during the Lyon College Chapel Hour. Nothing else is allowed to be scheduled during that time because everyone on campus is encouraged to attend chapel or participate in some form of worship. This time made it convenient for everyone to attend if desired. All the speakers were notified in advance to write a poem, speech, or say a few words on the topic of peace. There were over 150 guests who voluntarily attended the rally.
Methods and Tools Used
The method used in the participatory event was a rally. It is considered a demonstration because it involved a large group of people collectively expressing their desire for peace on campus . The event was publicized through flyers, web pages, social media, and word of mouth. The method of engagement used during the rally was singing from the Lyon College Gospel Choir.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The rally started at 11:00 am and ended at 12:15 pm on September 29, 2016. It was held on the east steps of Brown Chapel at Lyon College. There were over 150 guests in attendance. Taylor Donnerson recited a poem that she wrote called Be at Peace. It touched many of the issues and ways to come together. The speeches by the Mayor and Police Chief were very moving. The Lyon College Gospel choir sung multiple selections in-between speeches. There were reporters and a news outlets that covered the event. While some thought that the Peace Rally was due to issues on campus, Donnerson clarified the reasons behind the event. Everyone embraced each other during the event by holding hands and hugging. The rally ended with speakers receiving appreciations and praises from attendees. A reporter also collected final thoughts and reactions to the event .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The peace rally set the atmosphere for the rest of the school year. Therefore, the purpose not to allow the national issues to divide the community was achieved. The Chaplain decided to establish the Peace Rally as an annual event at Lyon College to address any future issues that could affect the campus. There were many comments and reactions after the event. Paige Bork said, “I think that personally and for the people around me, Lyon College is a place where you can come and feel so comfortable to be yourself, no matter what that means.”  Junior Amber Evans said, “Lyon campus works on issues of inclusion campus wide.”. Sophomore Kelsey Myers said “We’re facing a lot of issues as a country, and it kind of trickles down into our communities.” She also said “Know that we’re all her together” . Taylor Donnerson said “Once we get together and let everyone know how we feel and where we are coming from, then we can come together and be one” . The peace rally and Lyon College Campus Ministry won both campus and state awards for the event. Campus Ministry won Organization of the Year and the peace rally won Program of the Year at the Lyon College President’s Convocation in spring 2017. Taylor Donnerson was also awarded the Justice Sophia Peace Prize by the state Coalition for Peace.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The vision within one person fostered an event that impacted an entire community. Ridge Hester, BSA vice president, said “Without peace and love, how can a community survive” ? It may start off as turmoil dividing a nation but it does not have to end that way. Peace can change opinions, hearts, minds, and truly bring people together.
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The first version of this case entry was written by Taylor Donnerson, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and then edited. The views expressed in the entry are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.