Black History Month events continue despite racist attack

President Behre to address university Monday night with update on the investigation and moving forward.

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A Slippery Rock University student says the community must come together after the racist Zoom bombing on a historically Black sorority’s virtual event so it may never happen again.

The poetry event hosted by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA) had just started when the unknown attackers began shouting racist comments at attendees.

D’Ericka Cromartie, the AKA chapter president who was helping host the poetry reading, was taken aback by the incident.

“I was very shocked just because what are the grounds [to do such a thing] when we come with open arms to invite everyone on campus to our events?” Cromartie said.

Cromartie agreed to speak to The Rocket as a student who was there and not in her official capacity.

As the attack continued, Cromartie and others worked together remotely to remove the perpetrators from the Zoom meeting and stop the increasingly horrendous attack.

Once the attack was stopped, AKA continued with their reading, highlighting Black poets and sharing poems they had written that evening. The attackers were disruptive but were unable to deny attendees the opportunity to spotlight contributions made to Black writers’ art.

Before the event was over, university administration was notified of what took place, and the newly formed Campus Inclusion Response Team (CIRT) began responding. By the time the event concluded, SRU President William Behre had reached out via email to offer help in any way, Cromartie said.

Behre faced backlash in the days after sending an email statement to community stakeholders notifying them of what happened. Some students voiced their concerns that the statement did not describe the attack accurately and that the situation was being downplayed. Comments from students and organizations were shared on social media with the hashtag #shameonyousru.

Despite the backlash, Cromartie said Behre has been quite supportive, and she is appreciative of all he has done so far. She added that coming together as a community, including the local community outside the university, needs to happen in order to support students of color.

As of Monday, university police have yet to identify any suspects. Along with the Butler County District Attorney’s Office, university police have also reached out to the Pennsylvania State Police and FBI for assistance, according to SRU Police Chief Kevin Sharkey.

University police have also reached out to Pennsylvania State University police to see if there is any connection to the attack on Feb. 13 and similar Zoom bombings during Penn State virtual events on Feb. 15. Along with Penn State, Rutgers University events were targets of racially motivated Zoom bombings.

In an email updating the community of the investigation’s progress, Behre said that if the attackers are determined to be SRU students, “they will face full disciplinary sanctions.”

Behre also announced SRU would be hosting three events to address the incident and talk about issues going into the future. The first event was held on Monday at 7 p.m.

For those who perpetrated the attack, Cromartie wants them to know their actions are not welcomed at SRU, and she feels sorry for them.

“I’m praying for you,” Cromartie said. “I hope as an individual, you see that your actions are wrong, and I hope that you can forgive yourself and God can forgive you because hate is not welcomed, it’s not necessary and we aren’t going anywhere.”

Joe is a senior communication major with a concentration in converged journalism. This is his first year with The Rocket as assistant news editor. Before joining The Rocket, Joe worked at Butler County Community College’s student newspaper along with a short-lived career as public affairs sergeant (along with many other assignments) with the United States Army. When not covering campus news, Joe spends his weekends with his fiancée and son in Slippery Rock.

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