Colorful event inspires passers-by to exercise their First Amendment rights.
By Michelle Delgado
Students were scattered throughout this college’s mall Monday morning, bent over and scraping pieces of chalk against concrete and brick.
Ranger reporters, editors, photographers and advisers handed out a rainbow of chalk pieces for passers-by who wanted to participate in Chalk Day, a free speech event hosted by the journalism-photography program to celebrate National Newspaper Week.
Some students took advantage of the event by expressing their creativity, while others saw an opportunity to express political views.
Using pink chalk, psychology freshman Marina Morales scratched “Trump has disrespected women, disabled and all races” on the walkway.
“People should know the truth,” business administration freshman Alex Rodriguez said while her friend wrote the Trump message. “I don’t like what he stands for. He’s a good business man, but president-wise — no. We would go down the drain way worse than we have in the past.”
As Morales made the pink chalk letters bolder, Rodriguez continued:
“Women are already downgraded enough by social media,” she said. “He’s telling us that we need to go back to Mexico, that we’re bad people, when we’re the ones who help run the country, and he wants to build a wall?”
Many students were promoting positivity and self-confidence.
“Some people are just afraid to be themselves; they’re too worried about what Twitter has to say or what Instagram says you’re supposed to look like,” mortuary science freshman Emily Aguillon said as she wrote, “Don’t be afraid to be you” on the pavement.
Others promoted encouragement by jotting down famous quotes.
The walkway between the chemistry and geology building and Loftin Student Center read, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game,” a quote by Babe Ruth, in chalk letters.
“Just because you fail at certain things, don’t let that stop you from achieving what you really want to do in life,” biology freshman Tiareka Woods said.
Others chalked messages that celebrated their Hispanic heritage.
Spelled out in capital letters against the brick sidewalk were the words, “I ‘heart’ being Mexican.”
“Mexicans are looked down at a lot, so we have more of a reason to prove why we belong,” math sophomore Leon Reyes said. “Everyone has a purpose in this world, and being Mexican, it’s a little harder finding what your purpose is when you have a lot of people talking down on you.”
A few expressed themselves through art, drawing peace signs, the Earth and dogs.
Liberal arts sophomore Selena Flores drew a three-foot-long, chalk-dusted daisy.
Flores said she was inspired by a metaphor she heard at a church the previous day, which she described as an unpleasant metaphor that involves a rose.
The religious analogy compares a woman to a rose, and each time she has pre-marital sex, a petal falls until the rose is incomplete.
“I’ve heard some say, ‘Why would you want anyone like that?’ and that’s just an ugly saying, so I’m drawing a daisy,” Flores said. “People are just so much more valuable than a rose.”
Whether their words or art were inspiring, thought-provoking or pleasing to the eye, those who participated in Chalk Day seemed to have something to say.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” journalism Instructor and Ranger adviser Irene Abrego said, referring to free speech.
“Oftentimes in fighting to support free speech, you have to be willing to support speech you don’t like, you have to have tolerance for what other people have to say,” she said. “But if you really believe in your own right to free speech, then you have to make sure that it’s available to everyone else.”
Rodriguez, who supported Morales as she chalked the Trump message into the pavement, echoed Abrego’s sentiment.
“People are writing ‘God bless’ and ‘believe in yourself,’ and that’s great too,” Rodriguez said. “But we decided to put this out there because people should know what’s on our mind and what’s going on in politics. In order to ‘make a change,’ you have to know what’s going on in the world.”
Chalk was left out after the event for students who still wanted to participate.
“Some people have called it childish, but it’s an excellent demonstration of the need for free speech,” Abrego said.