During the dedication of the Parren Mitchell Art-Sociology building at the University of Maryland on Dec. 3, a student interrupted the ceremony to criticize President Wallace Loh’s handling of the on-going controversy over the name of UMD’s football stadium.
The ceremony began with University of Maryland President Wallace Loh praising the life and career of the event’s honoree, the late Parren Mitchell, the first African American to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland and the first African American from Maryland to serve in Congress. Soon after Loh began speaking however, Colin Byrd interrupted Loh, shouting at him through a mega phone.
“The only reason you’re doing this [renaming the art-sociology building after Parren Mitchell] is to avoid the issue of renaming Byrd Stadium! And I know you’re not going to answer, but you need to be called out because this is B.S.”
Byrd Stadium is named after former University of Maryland president Curley Byrd, whose legacy has been called into question due to the anti-integration policies he pursued while in office. Recently, a coalition of university students, led by Colin Byrd, have started petitioning Loh and the university to rename the stadium.
As Colin Byrd criticized Loh however, Clarence M. Mitchell lV, the nephew of Parren Mitchell and a former member of the Maryland state senate, stood up and admonished Byrd.
“I am here to honor my uncle. My family is here to honor my uncle. I’d appreciate it if you’d go elsewhere.”
Byrd fell silent and Loh finished the rest of his speech.
But an hour later when Clarence M. Mitchell lV got up to deliver his own scheduled remarks, he turned around and commended Byrd.
“Colin, what you’re doing here is wonderful… I came here today to honor my family. I came here today to also say, President Loh… I stand with these students. The stadium needs to renamed.”
The entire room broke out in rapturous applause.
Former Maryland state senator Michael Bowen Mitchell went even further with his own statements. He spent most his time behind the podium talking about Curley Byrd’s tenure as University of Maryland’s president, detailing how Byrd not only fought against integration at UMD but actively fought to keep Parren Mitchell, the very man being honored, from attending University of Maryland. He too implored Loh to change the name.
After the dedication ended, several members of the Mitchell family hugged and shook hands with Byrd.
Byrd said he chose to speak out at the dedication because he felt he had no other options.
“University President Wallace Loh has refused repeatedly to meet with our campus chapter of the NAACP to talk about renaming Byrd Stadium. Is President Loh ever going to meet with us? Is he ever going to respond to the calls that are being lifted up in earnest by members of the black community on our campus?”