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Unity Summit sparks discussion on equality

By Aaricka Washington

Martin Luther King Jr. Day marked the Office of Diversity Education’s eighth annual Unity Summit. About 300 IU students, faculty and staff members gathered in the Willkie Auditorium to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of humanitarian efforts and discuss discrimination, unity and equality in today’s society.

Eric Love, director of the Office of Diversity Education, encouraged people to come to the event via Facebook by promoting the fact that someone would be wearing a kilt at the Unity Summit.

That person happened to be Love. He considers himself a global citizen.

“I am an American, an African American, but I am also from England,” Love said. “I have a lot of Scottish friends, and I wear a lot of African clothes. I have friends that buy me clothes from all over the world. I have always wanted a kilt. I bought one in August. I had it, so I wanted to wear it, and today’s the perfect day … it’s the Unity Summit.”

For the first time this year, the Unity Summit featured Buddhist, Jewish and Native American customary spiritual practices as well as a Voices of Hope performance. Graduate student JT Snipes gave Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Love said the core of the Unity Summit is the civil dialogue.

Theta Nu Xi Inc., a multicultural sorority, has been a key part of planning and organizing the Unity Summit. They have worked with Love for the event for seven years. Senior Sydney Webb, a member of Theta Nu Xi Inc., said that MLK day is important because it exemplifies unity and diversity and bridging gaps between people.

“That’s what MLK wanted to do, was bridge gaps between people, mainly between people of different races, but my sorority doesn’t stop there, and neither are these discussions at the Unity Summit stopping at just race,” Webb said. “Now it’s just a much broader spectrum.”

Right after the participants signed in to the event, they received their “I will not stand for ...” T-shirts as a part of the Commission of Multicultural Understanding’s campaign against all acts of discrimination. They then sat in small groups of three to five people to discuss certain topics about diversity and discrimination. Facilitators for the Unity Summit asked questions to spur discussion.

The questions started off easy, with questions like “What’s your favorite ice cream?” However over time, the questions got more challenging. The last question was “Do you think there will be a day where equality will be achieved?”

One student said for society to achieve equality, change would have to start small, like in neighborhoods.

Another student in that same small group said society would have to change what it means to be equal because of the original, conflicting definition.

Another interjected that it would be hard to achieve equality because there will always be competition in society.

Webb, the facilitator who asked the question, said she was flabbergasted at people’s opinions of achieving equality. She sat with a group of people who believed that equality was not possible.

“What I want people to realize out of this and take away is that equality can’t happen unless you think it can,” Webb said. “If Martin Luther King didn’t have that optimism that it could, we wouldn’t be here today. That’s what struck me so hard is that we wouldn’t even be here if Martin Luther King didn’t have the confidence to believe that it could happen and the optimism that it could.”

During the summit, participants could put comments on “Write your Mind” poster boards about things they would not stand for.

Audrey Moore, a sophomore, wrote on one of the boards that she won’t stand for “being a statistic.”

“Black people are a lot of times the statistic when it comes to pregnancy or jail or drugs or whatever else,” Moore said. “I just don’t want my brothers and sisters to be the statistic. I don’t want to be the statistic and I’m tired of seeing our race always being the statistic.”

Moore said she liked that the Unity Summit brought all kinds of people together for a discussion about unity.

“That’s what MLK day is all about: bringing us all together and respecting each other,” Moore said.

After that, everyone sat down to hear the guest speaker, sophomore Aaron Crain, speak about his issues with discrimination. Crain experienced discrimination acts from Brother Jedd and other students in his dorm because of his sexual orientation and handicap. He challenged everyone to take a stand against discrimination.

“One person can make a difference,” Crain said. “One person can save a life.”

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