IRHA's 2019 Writing on the Wall Ceremony Empowers, Inspires Students

As the winter sun shone on the Reitz Union North Lawn, students knelt on a tarp and dipped brushes into gleaming cans of paint. They carefully dragged their brushes across a variety of brightly colored bricks – orange, pink, green.

When the students were finished with their work, the bricks were branded with large, bold letters: “Dumb.” “FAT.” “UGLY.”

UF’s Inter-Residence Hall Association held its annual Writing on the Wall Project on the Reitz Union North Lawn on Friday.

In this event, students were invited to paint words that have negatively impacted them on a brick wall in which they would later tear down.

These words of harassment and oppression were metaphorically (and physically) destroyed as a means of encouraging positive change in the lives of students and the community.

“Being able to take ownership of words that were used against us and seeing them fall down was very powerful,” said Ana Flores, a third-year family youth and community sciences major. She was one of the many people on Friday who helped tear down the wall.

Kelsey Witmeier, a member of the IRHA who helped with the event, said the project was about self-empowerment.

“We’re stronger than what people call us,” said Witmeier, a first-year public health major. “At the end of the day, we’re gonna break them down.”

Witmeier stood on the lawn while the wall was being constructed and invited students to paint a word or phrase on a brick.

Micah Lomel painted the mural on the back of the wall. To her, the birds represent freedom.

Rachel Marks was the director of this years writing on the wall project. “This project is really important to me because rather than suppressing each other's differences were able to express them and appreciate them,” she said.

During the ceremony on Friday, the Ukulele club performed along with the Tone Deaf Acapella club.

IRHA is a student-run organization founded in 1977. They represent the collective interests of all on-campus residents. They also help serve as a channel of communication between students living on campus and the Department of Housing and Residence Education.

This project was over a week long in the making, with the base coat painted February 4th-5th. Then the words painted on the wall the 6th-8th. Until finally on the 15th at 1:30 p.m. participants were able to tear down the wall.