Mercer community gathers to reach a ‘middle ground’

Senior+Jadon+Murad+gives+opening+remarks+at+Middle+Ground%2C+hosted+Monday+Jan.+18+by+Mobilize+Mercer+and+Real+Talk.

Image: Nadia Pressley

Senior Jadon Murad gives opening remarks at Middle Ground, hosted Monday Jan. 18 by Mobilize Mercer and Real Talk.

Over the past year, political tensions in America have been notably high. From the civil rights protests of summer 2020, to November’s historic Presidential election, to former President Donald Trump’s fervent attempts to refuse a smooth transition of power, there’s a lot to discuss.

Most recently was the storming of the U.S. Capitol that took place Jan. 6. The riot was carried out by Trump supporters during the Congressional sessions to confirm President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the election.

“Regardless of what the event invoked in each of us, it invoked something in all of us,” senior Jadon Murad said in his opening remarks at Monday night’s Middle Ground discussion.

Mobilize Mercer and Real Talk came together to organize Middle Ground, a “deliberative dialogue” for the Mercer community to take a deep look into what they feel following the demonstration at the Capitol. The event was held Jan. 18 in Willingham Auditorium. Masks and social distancing guidelines were enforced.

“We are here to reach a middle ground,” Murad said.

The event was inspired by a YouTube series created by the media platform Jubilee. The series consists of conversations on various topics in which the participants are divided.

The rules were simple. Real Talk coordinators Shailey Shah and Robyn Guru shared a statement related to the current state of society, and participants moved closer to or further from the auditorium aisles to express their level of agreement with the statement. Those who desired to further express why they agreed or disagreed with the statement were given one minute to state their thoughts.

Those who did not feel comfortable sharing their opinions were able to use an app called Slido, which allowed them to express their opinions openly and anonymously.

The topics discussed included the Black Lives Matter Movement, the riot at the Capitol, censoring content on social media, accessible voting and voter education.

In an Instagram post advertising the event, Mobilize Mercer said, “It is paramount that Mercerians address their concerns collectively to prevent further division; therefore, we must be open to listen and understand others to find our middle ground.”

Students, faculty and staff with varying beliefs and opinions attended to express what concerns them and what they are optimistic about.

“I’m optimistic because I see such a diverse group of people in this room,” said Ansley Booker, Mercer’s director of diversity and inclusion. “The road to reconciliation is going to be a long journey. This change starts here. Don’t lose hope, don’t lose optimism, continue to have faith and faith in each other.”

Sophomore Kennedy Rayford said she came out to the event because she likes being part of difficult conversations.

“I like hearing other people’s point of views,” Rayford said. “I think that this was a very successful event.”

Mobilize Mercer and Real Talk coordinators said they plan to host another Middle Ground event in the future.

“You probably don’t agree with everything that was said tonight,” junior Tessa Gebert said in her closing remarks. “But you listened respectfully, and I think that is really, really important.”