Ursinus Artivism: The Freedom of Speech Wall

Jenni Berrios (jeberrios@ursinus.edu)

The summer of 2020 saw strong support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and its goal of changing the systems that threaten black lives. Many young activists joined BLM to make the voices of black people stronger and louder.

In recent years, Ursinus College has been putting in more effort to make change and show solidarity with students of color on campus.  The Ursinus administration and student body president, Jalen Everette ’22, came together to brainstorm a way to give students a positive platform to express their emotions about important issues like these. The Freedom of Speech Wall, located in Lower Wismer,  is their newest project, and a space for students to speak their minds. “The school wanted to provide an outlet for students to express themselves constructively,” Everette said. “We wanted to ensure that students can use their freedom of speech, especially in this heightened social volatility that we are living in.” 

In order to ensure the wall stays positive, Ursinus College Student Government (UCSG) will do rounds everyday between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. “They will be checking for any obscene gestures, slurs, or anything that can [incite] negative emotions in our community,” assured Everette. UCSG is prepared to act quickly to take down inappropriate messages. 

To bring this project to life, Everette trusted Jaliene Rodriguez’s artistic skills. “Jalen Everette came to me with the idea [of the freedom of speech wall]. He stated that he did not know how to necessarily start it and the idea was not concrete,” Rodriguez ’21  said. “I gathered a small group of people I had art class with before and brainstorm ideas together. I took the project personally from the beginning, as soon as I heard that it was going to be freedom of speech I automatically thought of the minorities on campus. So that was my main focus and what I wanted to prioritize — that every voice was heard.” 

On Rodriguez’s team was Sarah Marchione ’22, Nikole Fandino ’23, and Anika Shah ’19. “Without them the mural wouldn’t be what it is,” Rodriguez noted.

The project is not yet complete, however the artists are proud of the progress of the Freedom Of Speech Wall. This is only the beginning in terms of positive platforms for students. 

If you would like to help, feel free to email jarodriguez@ursinus.edu