LEWISBURG — Around 850 people attended Tuesday night's Solidarity March, the most attendees in the annual event's 18 years of providing Lewisburg residents and Bucknell university students a chance to heal, according to Cynthia Peltier. Peltier, CommUnity Zone director and co-founder, was happy to see so many Bucknell and high school students attend the rally this year as the people who have been coming to the rally since it started in 1998 are "getting tired."
"It gives me hope because we have to hand over the mantle," Peltier said.
The CommUnity Zone co-hosts the event with CARE and Bucknell University's Social Justice Residential College. Bucknell students walked from the Malesardi Quad on their campus to join Lewisburg community members downtown at Lewisburg's Hufnagle Park.
Jorden Sneed, 21, of Los Angeles and a senior at Bucknell, said she has attended the rally and march every year since she started college.
When she first started to come to the rally, she said they were much more intimate and shorter. However, "sentiments towards this march have changed since so much has changed in the world."
Sneed said, "it is nice to see more people value the Solidarity March in the community. I believe it's important to have these rallies, marches, and events as it allows for our communities, Lewisburg and Bucknell, to come together on exposing these social issues that impact many of us on a daily basis."
Fellow Bucknell student Grevelin Ulerio, who performed Billie Holiday's classic protest song "Strange Fruit" and gave a small speech during the rally, said she wanted to tackle issues like white supremacy and anti-blackness head on.
The 19-year-old sophomore, of Bronx, New York, originally planned to sing "A Change is Gonna Come" but changed her mind as she thought it was important to show what it means to be a black person in society.
"A lot of people see race as an identity, not as a position within society," Ulerio, who is a first generation Dominican American, said.
She said she wanted to participate after watching the performances at last year's rally and march. After the rally concluded, many audience members went up to Ulerio and shared how moved they were by her performance.
"Not only does this event raise awareness on social issues, but also we have an opportunity to witness our peers reach out against these issues through dance, song, speech and poem and connect with each other on a non-academic level," Sneed said.
Mariah Lofgren, 17, of Lewisburg, said the rally is an important component of the community as "in some places, people might not have someone to talk to you about these issues or they might not come up at all."
"There are people out there who need our support and we need to come out for them, regardless of people's political beliefs," she said.
"In this community, there is a lot of traditionalism and intolerance, but it is really powerful to be here and see everyone turn out," said Aaron Troisi, 30, of Lewisburg.
Ulerio said she appreciates the rally and march but thinks event's message needs to reach more people.
"It is the same people coming to the march that are already aware of the issues. We need to think about how we are getting more people into the conservation," she said, recommending people who attended the rally talk about these issues with their friends, get the word out, and not be scared to ask questions.
"If there is any uncertainty, come talk to me and we can fix this together," she said.
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