A stairwell that was once covered in hate speech, racial slurs and threats is now splashed with color and positive thoughts as Salisbury University students came together to fight back against the recent vandalism in SU’s Fulton Hall.
What started out as one positive sticky note on the north stairwell of the academic building has sparked a movement that is spreading positive thoughts and actions throughout the SU community.
"In the end, LOVE wins”; these five words in green Sharpie on a yellow Post-It note are what pushed SU students to join together in an effort to suppress the hate and give the SU community hope.
When SU lecturer of art Jessica Cross made her way up the Fulton Hall stairwell Nov. 6, her eyes were immediately drawn to this small, heartwarming message.
As she walked into her first class that day, she shared her findings with her students and proposed the idea that they should continue the wall with their own words of empowerment. Cross wanted to make the wall more permanent in a sense that they could “wallpaper” it with notes.
“I saw the one sticky note and thought how easy it could be for somebody to just come and take it off,” Cross said. “But what if there were a million sticky notes up? A million signs. A million positive things — then they can’t take it down.”
SU senior Rachel Eure was all ears as her professor proposed the idea, and she immediately went to retrieve a pack of colorful sticky notes she had to share with the class.
“I just knew I had a bunch of really colorful sticky notes, and I felt like the colorful ones would stand out more and be more noticeable,” Eure said.
As a result of a few members of her art class taking part in designing a positive note, Eure has seen the impact of their actions in the community’s support and drive to continue the wall.
“They’re spreading,” Eure said. “They’re spreading everywhere. I was walking up the stairs this morning, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute! There’s more!’”
The initiative to spread positive messages has migrated across various walls of Fulton Hall,and has even made its way to other academic buildings like Conway Hall.
Seeing as the recent vandalism targeted people of color, SU senior Valerie Simon pointed out that many of her peers of color did not feel safe on campus following the incidents.
Simon is optimistic that this movement will help ease the minds of the victimized that there is hope and the SU student body will not stand for violence or negativity toward anyone.
"I'm hoping at least this made them feel that there are other students here who aren't awful and have their back through this," Simon said. "I'm really just hoping it made the black students who were targeted by all of this feel like we're standing with them."
SU senior Marley Parsons was a student in Cross’s class who also felt personally moved by the idea to stand by her peers. On her sticky note, Parsons wrote, “We all bleed the same color.”
Parsons expressed extreme upset in the thought that someone in our community could be filled with such unrelenting hatred.
“I think it was really sad just seeing that someone could write such hurtful things and have no compassion for other people,” Parsons said. “But I think everyone coming together and writing positive stuff, and making those affected feel equal I think is really great, like there’s still positivity in the world.”
Parsons explained that with the use of sticky notes, the movement could be convenient, seeing as the notes are an extremely accessible product that most students already have.
She also highlighted that unlike recent events, what they are doing is not damaging any school property.
“It’s not like we’re creating more vandalism; it’s a sticky note,” Parsons said. “They could take it down if they wanted."
Within the hour of one class putting their thoughts on the wall, the movement took social media by storm.
Parsons enjoyed seeing how quickly people caught on.
“It was really cool how, like, with social media, just that morning we all put it on our stories, and then by the end of the day, the stairwell was full,” Parsons said.
In addition to members of the class posting on social media, SU's President Charles Wight also shared photos of the movement on his personal Instagram.
In the caption of his post, Wight expressed gratitude and pride for the SU community for fighting back against the hatred in such a positive light.
“This has been a difficult week for our community, but I have been encouraged by the passion and resilience of our students and their determination to send a strong message that hatred and discrimination have no place on our campus,” Wight said in his Instagram post of the sticky note movement.
The movement has spread via social media and word of mouth, and it has gone beyond the walls of the Fulton stairwell. Sticky notes can now be found in various buildings all over campus, and students have also gone as far as decorating the sidewalks with chalk messages of love and positivity.
SU junior Emily Donahue was so inspired by the initiative that she wrote a multitude of positive messages for her peers. Some of Donahue's notes included messages like 'you matter,' and 'give someone a hug today.'
A big part of the movement was to make the students initially targeted by the vandalism feel that their peers stand by them and that this wall of love and hope over powers any message of hate.
"Even if it doesn't have that huge of an impact, just the fact that there are these positive messages and people are like 'okay I'm not alone in this,'" Donahue said.
Cross hopes that this movement helps bring the ray of hope to students that “this is what we really are.”
“What’s spreading is this idea of positivity over negativity, and you know, in the end, love wins,” Cross said.
By CAROLINE STREETT
Gull Life editor
Featured photos by Caroline Streett Images.