Some 17,000 Sign Petition To Rename Arkansas University Auditorium After Caribbean Immigrant Shot By Police

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By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. June 9, 2020: A petition by a 28-year-old White man to rename the auditorium of an Arkansas university after a Caribbean immigrant alumnus shot by police, has so far garnered almost 17,000 of its 25,000 signatures.

Jackson House, a 2014 graduate of Harding University in Searcy, Ark., wants the university to rename its George S. Benson auditorium after St. Lucian immigrant and 2016 Harding graduate Botham Shem Jean, who was shot death by Dallas cop Amber Guyger in his apartment on Sept. 6, 2018.

The petition on change.org had 16,973 signatories as of yesterday. “What really motivated me to do this now is just the overwhelming silence of many white Churches of Christ in response to the killing of George Floyd,” House told the Christian Chronicle.

Jean’s sister, Allisa Charles-Findley, told The Christian Chronicle she hopes the petition drive succeeds.

“I think it is fitting that Botham is remembered with such a symbol since Harding University played a part in the outstanding person he was,” Charles-Findley, president of the Botham Jean Foundation, a charity formed in her brother’s memory, told the paper. “I deeply hope this petition goes a long way and materializes into the Botham Jean Auditorium.”

The university’s Black Student Association has voiced support for the petition at a Christian university where minority students comprise about 15 percent of its total enrollment of 4,900.

House, in his petition, said George S. Benson, after whom the auditorium was named, was a vocal racist and supporter of segregation. “In particular, he fought to keep the Harding community segregated,” wrote House. “Honoring his legacy by keeping his name on the George S. Benson Auditorium is implicitly honoring his legacy of racism and segregation.”

“Those who sign this petition propose that the George S. Benson Auditorium be renamed the Botham S. Jean Auditorium to honor the life of a man who was committed to the teachings of Jesus Christ in both word and deed, who truly loved all of his neighbors, and who praised God instead of promoted racism in Harding chapel services,” he added. “The fact that racism played such an important role in the life of George S. Benson and in the death of Botham Jean is our motivation to propose this name change.”

Harding President Bruce McLarty, who delivered the closing prayer at the Dallas West Church of Christ member’s funeral, has so far not commented on the petition.

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