ATHENS, Ala. - A mixed crowd sang 'We Shall Overcome' together Monday evening as they held hands at Athens State University.
The campus served as a venue for a peace rally aimed at building bridges instead of choosing sides amid a week of violence and protest around the country.
"We can shift the focus from what divides us to what unites us," explained Dr. LaDoris Baugh, a business professor at the university who organized the rally.
She said she would rather celebrate diversity as an effort to create empathy than to allow race to be a dividing characteristic.
"It's an important thing happening in the country right now. It's a little bit of history happening in Athens, Alabama," said attendee John Winston Garth. "I thought it was important for myself, as a white person, to be here to show my support."
Campus leaders were in attendance, supportive of the school being used as a meeting place for the exchange of ideas.
"Universities are indeed one of the best places for people to come together," said Dr. Baugh. "Having different opinions doesn't mean you cant get together have an honest conversation and I think that's what's lacking."
The peace rally also featured multiple speakers, all emphasizing the importance of unity.
"I want the average person to have to moral courage to speak up and say blue lives do matter, black lives do matter," said Dr. Baugh. "Take a look at what the other side might be feeling and temper your behavior with a bit of love and understanding."