Story by: Sara Cappiello and Lexi Kerzman
In preparation for their 97th annual show, USD Strollers introduced their emcee via Twitter. The tweet, which included racist slurs relating to the black community, was taken down early Friday after the organization received backlash.
Since the tweet, USD community members have questioned the value of Strollers as many of the jokes push the line between comedy and offensive.
The Center for Diversity and Community hosted a student forum in response.
Aeron Peters, Strollers co-president, said at the forum this experience has made him realize how powerful the organization’s jokes are.
“Strollers has been around for 97 years and all of those years we have pushed the envelope on what comedy is, most of it has been offensive,” Peters said. “It makes me so sad that it took tonight to realize the jokes we make have an impact.”
The forum was originally scheduled to be held in the CDC. Due to the large crowd in attendance, the event was moved to the Muenster University Center Ballroom. The forum was an open conversation for people on both sides to share their thoughts and feelings.
The night started with statements from Laura Chandler, CDC Director, Lamont Sellers, associate vice president of diversity and members of the Union for African American Students (UAAS) — Sophia Lima, Ashley Charlie, Marcus Destin and Savana Ramsey.
Sellers said after this incident, he hopes students, faculty and community members realize their words have consequences.
“That little poem that goes ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,’ isn’t true at all,” Sellers said. “Words have impact and words do hurt. What we put out there has an impact. And it reaches much further than we ever could imagine.”
Chandler, in her opening remarks, apologized that this incident happened during the midst of celebrations for Black History Month. Destin said he is tired of having the same conversation over and over.
“This is hurtful. This sucks. It’s tiring. I just want you to care compassionately and genuinely,” Destin said. “I’m not here to bash you, I am here to educate you.”
Once the conversation opened up for audience members, attendees were able to either apologize, ask questions or simply state an opinion.
The conversation lasted over an hour and a half. During the middle of the forum, Destin stopped and asked if audience members were listening and understanding what was being said.
“We keep looking at administration and saying ‘what are you going to do?’ when we’re the ones (messing) up… Stop pointing the finger and look in the mirror,” Destin said. “If we’re going to have a conversation, don’t give me a BS one. I want the genuine one.”
Devalon Whitcomb, a graduate student in the audience said it is great to have this conversation, but it means nothing if people aren’t comprehending it.
“A student can sit in the lecture and bomb the test. Comprehend what’s going on right now,” he said. “This is deeper than a tweet.”
The Strollers organization was also in attendance at the forum. The co-presidents both apologized and said they are hoping to make their organization better in the future.
Keeley Rexwinkel, the Strollers emcee whose picture was attached to the original tweet, also spoke at the forum. She said she apologizes for any harm the tweet did or their organization in general did. She also said doesn’t condone that language and doesn’t associate with that tweet.
“I just want to apologize,” Rexwinkel said. “Me, like a lot of people, are here tonight because we genuinely want to be better and learn.”
After the tweet, Rexwinkel along with Strollers deleted their twitter accounts. Rexwinkel deleted hers after receiving hateful comments online, she said.
Destin apologized to Rexwinkel at the beginning of the forum. He said that kind of hate was uncalled for and didn’t solve anything.
The forum concluded with Sellers asking people to be better and thanking all those who attended.
“Everyone has talked about how the University of South Dakota and South Dakota is just so nice. And yes, I’ve met many, many nice people over the time that my family and I have been here, but then there are those things that shock you back into reality,” Sellers said. “Yes, most people are nice here, but there are some underlying things that are happening that let you know, everybody’s not like that.”
The Strollers organization declined to be interviewed one on one with The Volante. All comments from the Strollers are from Monday’s forum.