Every evening for the past year, rain or shine, Toomer's Corner has been the site of a peaceful demonstration to end racism. Kelli Thompson, a faculty member in Psychological Sciences, decided one day that she had had enough and took to the street to express her outrage.
In the Spring of 2020, the entire country was gripped by protests and scenes of tear gas and clubs being used on protesters. Thompson wrote on Facebook, commemorating the anniversary, "My heart couldn't take any more pain. I had no words and no plans. I grabbed a sign I picked up in DC just a few years earlier and instinctively drove to the center of town. I took a seat, waited and observed. This was the first leap of faith on the corner. It was the birth of something I could not fully anticipate..."
A year later, hundreds have joined her to express the common plea for an end to racism, but Thompson has been the one constant, showing up every day from 5-7 p.m. to quietly remind Auburn of an ongoing injustice.
From Kelli Thompson's Facebook page:
Exactly one year ago, the corner found me. Today, we will celebrate the corner’s first birthday!
On June 1, 2020 military force was used on peaceful protesters in Washington DC for the sake of a presidential photo op. I could not believe what I was seeing. My heart couldn’t take any more pain. I had no words and no plans. I grabbed a sign I picked up in DC just a few years earlier and instinctively drove to the center of town. I took a seat, waited and observed. This was the first leap of faith on the corner. It was the birth of something I could not fully anticipate. I doubt I could ever possibly plan something better, even if I tried. This thing just happened. I think, on some level, we recognize this was what we needed. A space like this, right in the center of town, where we can meet to practice civil discourse. It was exactly what we needed. Then, and now.
Over the course of the next 365 days, we nurtured this space. No one sits alone in this space for too long. The corner doesn’t seem to want to let that happen. So we kept showing up, kept meeting here, kept having these tough conversations with strangers, friends, and neighbors. We grew. We reflected. We danced. We created art, music, poetry, and have some incredible stories to tell along the way.
There was that one time with the Trump rally and that time someone threw McDonald’s fries at me! But then there was also that time with the hot cocoas and the lemonades and the waters and the donuts and the endless line of acts of kindness and drive-by giftings! We have expressed and listened to a full range of emotional expression, things people needed to get off their chest, right there in the center of town. At the gateway where the university meets and greets the little town it inhabits, a community of support sprang up quite naturally right around those hard, red bricks.
It is something you have to experience for yourself to truly understand. And it is something that requires patience and persistence. But, if you've ever got the time to sit and wait, I encourage you come on down to Toomer’s Corner. We are there daily from 5-7 PM - rain, shine, and whatever else the corner may bring!