Radford University says Black Lives Matter not a sponsor of Saturday’s ‘Bigger Picture Rally and March’

Radford University has contacted The Patriot to request a correction of our article, posted Monday on our website and social media concerning the “Bigger Picture Rally and March,” planned for Saturday in Radford.

An RU official said Radford University is requesting a correction “due to the headline and the lead sentence in the story, which are misleading.”

According to the official, Caitlyn Scaggs,  Associate Vice President for University Relations, “President Hemphill’s message, which was sent to main campus students yesterday (Monday, September 14, 2020), did not call or ask any individuals to participate in the upcoming student-led and student-organized event.  It is important to note that the President’s message did not provide event details, such as the start time or the specific location. The President’s communication was sent to demonstrate his support for the students and share information about his individual experiences.  As the leader of a student-centered institution, President Hemphill will participate in the student-led and student-organized event in order to show his support for the students.”

According to Scaggs, “The Bigger Picture March and Rally is a student-led and student-organized event.  It is being co-sponsored by several campus organizations, including Diversity Awareness Programming (DAP), NAACP, Lady RUs, National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), Black Student Alliance (BSA), and Radford Student Programming and Campus Events (R-SPaCE).  The event is being coordinated and promoted by students; however, in order to ensure it is held in the safest format possible due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic, the University is assisting student organizers with the overall event structure and various logistical details.”

She continued that “The students have a right to share their beliefs and perspectives and have committed to do so in a peaceful and respectful manner, while also adhering to masking and distancing requirements due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic.”

As stated before, The Patriot received information from a trusted source that the rally and march is being sponsored by Black Lives Matter. We sent an email to President Hemphill asking for confirmation of that along with other questions. We received no word back from the university until Tuesday afternoon – nearly 24 hours after we attempted to contact Hemphill.

The following was our email to President Hemphill:

Dr. Hemphill,
Hope you’re doing well.

Someone sent to me today a copy of an open letter from you to the Radford University community concerning the Sept. 19, 2020 “The Bigger Picture March” in Radford.
A couple questions for you if I may.
-I assume the march is being sponsored by the Black Lives Matter organization.
-Where will it take place?
-It appears you are inviting all students at RU to participate. Did you also send the invitation to faculty and staff?
-If everyone attends how many people would that number?
-I assume you have alerted City government?
Are the limits set by Radford City and the university on sizes of gatherings a concern, especially in light of recent notoriety for the city on COVID-19 outbreaks?

Thank you,
Mike Williams
The Patriot
PO BOX 2416
Pulaski, VA 24301

Considering Scaggs’ information on the sponsors, we correct our statement on sponsorship and acknowledge that the Black Lives Matter organization is NOT a sponsor of the event.

As for the portion of the article pertaining to attendance at the event, we viewed President Hemphill’s message – sent to all students on campus – to be at least a strong suggestion that they join him there considering this passage: “I look forward to joining with our passionate students as part of the Bigger Picture March and Rally to be held on the afternoon of September 19, 2020.”