This story was a collaborative work completed by Torch Reporter Harley Harrison and News Editor Angela Graf.
As many students know, Ferris’ Rock Café is commonly recognized by the two continuously painted boulders that sit in close proximity to the restaurant.
According to Sharaé Williams, Ferris healthcare administration senior and president of the Black Greek Council, the Rock Café covered up a Black Lives Matter mural on the decorative rock in front of the establishment Friday, Oct. 14, in preparation of Ferris’ Friends and Family weekend.
This conclusion was made based on an alleged report of a student employee overhearing Rock management discussing taking those very same actions.
“The Black Greek Council is composed of seven active fraternities and sororities. We painted the large rock black with the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ in all our colors,” Williams said. “Our intent was to bring awareness about what’s going on in our community and our world about police brutality.”
Several reports alleged that the “Black Lives Matter” phrase was originally just covered with a large blot of orange paint for a time before later being completely repainted as a jack-o’-lantern.
“They didn’t attempt to cover up the entire rock to make it look nice,” said Arshano McKenzie, a Ferris healthcare administration and radiology senior of the initial change. “They just put a giant orange blob over the words and you can still somewhat see Black Lives Matter in the background; it just looks like if you had a giant artwork, you know, a giant canvas that was your Picasso and someone just threw a giant blue smudge of paint in the middle, how would you have felt?”
According to members of the Black Greek Council, they are not upset about the rock being repainted, as the rock is repainted with frequency; they are upset with the intent of the Rock Café and the manner in which they handled the situation.
“It’s bigger than Ferris State, it’s bigger than Big Rapids, it’s bigger than any organization on the campus,” McKenzie said. “It’s a national movement that resonates with a lot of African American or multicultural students or anyone of color.”
Tom Pizzo, the manager of the Rock Café, denied any allegations of organizing a plan to cover up the Black Lives Matter artwork.
“We painted the orange jack-o-lantern because we have a special meal coming up on the 31st and we do a halloween contest and a candy buffet for our lunch and dinner meals,” Pizzo said. “We just thought it had been black for a long time.”
Several other members of the Rock Café staff refused to comment on the issue.
The only written rules regarding decorating the rock lie within the student handbook and state: “Painting of the rock is on a first-come, first-serve basis. All organizations have equal access to the rock. Clubs and organizations may not cover or ‘guard’ the rock after painting it and thus may not prevent other organizations from painting over their work.”
The Black Greek Council is planning on repainting the rock in the near future.
“We’re not saying that other lives don’t matter,” Williams said. “We should all be treated with equality.”