It started at the University of Memphis. They then moved to Christian Brothers University. After that, to LeMoyne-Owen College. And, by the time they made it to Rhodes College, a group of nearly 200 amassed and marched down University Street.
As the 45th president of the United States took the oath of office Friday, student organizers from four Memphis-area colleges led a walk-out protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump. The organizers, primarily women and people of color, issued a list of demands for their respective universities in an effort to spur progress locally during what some said they feared would be four years of regression.
"Our administration does not prioritize faculty of color," said Lyndsey Smith, president of the U of M's Progressive Student Alliance. "In a city that is primarily black, that is not okay. As students united, we have power and we can hold our campuses accountable."
Christian Brothers University needs to hire more professors who are people of color, said Terri Conley, a CBU student and member of the official chapter of Black Lives Matter. Conley, who is also vice president of the Black Student Alliance, said all marginalized groups will be heard.
Conley said, "We also need a requirement of multicultural courses for all CBU students. The only class we have is African American theology, and it's taught by a white guy. We need gender neutral restrooms in all campus buildings. We have a large and growing transgender community. They deserve to use a restroom where they feel comfortable."
Aylen Mercado, an organizer and student at Rhodes College, said the school needed to do a better job in acknowledging racism and harassment on campus — as well as making the college accessible and inclusive "for all students."
"You can't access a lot of our buildings if you're in a wheelchair or have disabilities, and that needs to change," Mercado said. "Our college needs to divest from unethical corporations who profit from human rights violations. We need to protect our undocumented students."
As Mercado said that, a voice from the crowd shouted "everywhere."
Chewy, an undocumented student from CBU, stepped to the center of a circle, lifting a megaphone to the crowd.
"This morning my business professor said society was rigged," Chewy said. "It is. You know why? We're divided. Minorities are scared. My message is that we need to come together if we want to win this fight. I don't want anything for free, I only want fairness."
Earlier in the morning, as the Progressive Student Alliance gathered in front of the U of M's University Center, Paul Johnson, a sophomore communications major, sat on the steps, eating a sandwich while students held signs and chanted.
"Respect is the biggest problem," Johnson said. "To get there, I don't have the answer. I don't think this is going to help, but I don't know what will."