Students, administrators and others participate in annual Clothesline Project Walk to remind students they are not alone.
By James Dusek
“Stop the violence!” — Chants echoed through campus in the early afternoon of Oct. 12.
Nearly two-dozen students, faculty, staff and administrators — each wearing a small purple flower on their lapel — marched from the empowerment center to Loftin Student Center.
Students stopped as they heard the cries coming from down the block. Some of them followed the crowd, either out of solidarity or curiosity.
“No more silence!” they yelled.
Every year, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Non-traditional Student Club hosts the Clothesline Project Walk. Participants painted messages and art on T-shirts, which they carried on a clothesline across campus and hung in Loftin.
Pink, blue and white cotton shirts waved in the slight breeze, painted with designs and messages of support.
“No one should suffer in silence,” said one shirt in colorful letters. “Survivor,” said another. The shirt was yellow, and above the word was a drawing of a purple ribbon with butterfly wings. Yellow shirts represent battered or assaulted women, according to the Clothesline Project’s website.
“On this day we will unite!”
The chants were led by Sandra Nickelberry, a business management sophomore and president of the Non-traditional Student Club. The clothesline walk was an emotional experience for Nickelberry, who has been in domestic violence relationships in the past. “When I was there, I didn’t have no support from nobody,” Nickelberry said. Now, she works with the club and the empowerment center to make sure people in situations like hers can find help.
Nickelberry motioned to the group affixing the clothesline to the banister in Loftin. “Some of the ladies here are survivors too,” she said. Participants seemed visibly happy to be there, surrounded by people who understood and encouraged them.
“To support and bring awareness!” the chant continued.
The annual event shows support for students who may be in dangerous relationships, to let them know they are not alone and that there are resources available to them. Maria Jimenez, an adviser at the empowerment center, said the walk is never about numbers, but affecting lives.
“If it means that we can touch only one individual, then we’ve accomplished what we’re set out to do, and that is to raise that awareness,” she said.
President Robert Vela, who marched alongside several other members of this college’s administration, gave a short speech after the cavalcade arrived in Loftin.
“I can assure each of you in the room that we all have a story to share,” Vela said.
The college wants to help those in domestic violence relationships, Vela said. All it takes is to ask for help.
“Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and civility,” Vela said. “Every opinion matters. Every life matters.”
After Vela’s speech, Belinda Harmon, director of community outreach at the University of Texas at San Antonio, shared her personal story of overcoming abuse and offered encouragement to students who might be going through abusive relationships.
“You can change your story,” Harmon said.
Escaping harmful relationships might be difficult, but Harmon, Nickelberry and others at the event are living proof that it can be done.
“This is what an overcomer looks like,” Harmon said. She looked happy to be there; happy to be alive.
“For those who are victimized!” the chant concluded before immediately starting again. The chant was repeated dozens of times during the march, somehow louder, more passionate each time than the last.
This college offers free personal counseling and crisis intervention for students on the first floor of Moody Learning Center. Students in need can also call the San Antonio Battered Women and Children’s Shelter at 210-733-8810. The empowerment center can be reached at 210-486-0455.