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National turmoil inspires peace rally at Lyon

by Syd Hayman | October 6, 2016 at 12:00 a.m.
Slayton Thompson, community liaison for Bethel African Methodist Episopal Church in Batesville, shares his thoughts on the community and what needs to be done for peace at the Lyon College Peace Rally on Sept. 29.

— Students, faculty and community members gathered Sept. 29 on the east steps of Brown Chapel at Lyon College for a Peace Rally that declared the campus will not condone the use of violence as a response to community differences and tension.

“We want to be about peace and not about arguing about who is right or who is wrong or who is being oppressed — injustice, that kind of thing. That’s all a good conversation, I guess, but we mostly want to approach things with peace and kindness toward each other,” said Ray McCalla, Lyon College chaplain.

Community leaders such as Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh, Police Chief Alan Cockrill and Slayton Thompson, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church community liaison, presented brief messages at the rally, which also included words from students and a performance by the Lyon College Gospel Choir.

This summer, McCalla and Taylor Donnerson, president of the Campus Ministry Leadership Council, independently brainstormed on how the campus could address recent shootings in America, and when the school year began, they joined forces to plan a rally during the campus’ Chapel Hour, when nothing else on campus is scheduled to take place.

McCalla estimated that about 150 students, and even more nonstudents, attended the rally, which was mainly promoted through word of mouth.

“It came out of emotion from the things that happened in the summer back to back, from the killings in Orlando and the police officers and the African-American men who were killed — it came out of that,” said Donnerson, a junior who is also president of the Lyon College Black Student Association.

McCalla said news of shootings inspired him to present a proactive message on campus.

“There were a couple of men who were shot by police in proximity, timewise, and then there was the shooting in Dallas of police who were working, and that was just like, ‘This is not cool,’” McCalla said. “I don’t want that to come to our community. That was kind of what triggered it in my mind. I don’t want to see that on our campus. I don’t want to be the one to have to say some stuff afterward.”

Ridge Hester, vice president of the Campus Ministry Leadership Council, said the amount of diversity at Lyon is small but that the school is still a “great institution.” As a black student, Hester said, he has been able to thrive, be involved and be a voice for minorities and those who aren’t heard.

“Without peace and love, how can a community survive?”

said Hester, a sophomore. “I felt that doing this Peace Rally, it would be a launching pad here at this college and, hopefully, to spread throughout the community.”

The rally addressed inclusion of sexual orientations as well. Paige Bork, vice president of Lyon’s Spectra Alliance, the school’s gay-straight alliance, said Lyon College is an environment where people can be themselves.

“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 — gender

expression, sexuality, just what you choose to do as a person — you can come here and feel comfortable to be yourself,” she said to the crowd.

Junior Amber Evans, who attended the rally, said the Lyon campus works on issues of inclusion campuswide. When the Spectra Alliance didn’t feel welcome on campus last year, she said, the campus addressed the problem.

“They held a discussion about it for the whole campus to come to and had speakers, so I think that really shows that when we do come across issues, we’re willing to try to come together and work through them.”

Second-year student Kelsey Myers said the school campus also had a similar discussion of the history of the Confederate flag and various viewpoints on its usage. Myers said the Lyon community is “pretty accepting.”

“We’re facing a lot of issues as a country, and it kind of trickles down into our communities,” she said. “You can see arguments between people just in regular daily conversations. … Honestly, it can get pretty violent in speech, and it’s important to bring it back in, know that we’re all here together.”

McCalla and Donnerson said there was no specific event on the Lyon campus that inspired the organization of the Peace Rally.

“I really think that people react out of ignorance and out of fear,” Donnerson said. “When you put those two together, it just breaks us apart. So once we get together and let everyone know how we feel and where we’re coming from, then we can come together and be one.”

Staff writer Syd Hayman can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or


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