There were no posters, signs or chanting, only silence, as supporters of Black IUnity crossed through campus.
Starting at the Sample Gates, they marched in two lines, single file, down Indiana Avenue and Seventh Street to the Neal Marshall Black Culture Center.
The silence was a sign of community and togetherness, as planned by organizers, exceeding their expectations.
Before the march began, those in attendance were reminded that this would be a planned demonstration, not a protest.
Supporters of the Black IUnity movement dawned matching black long-sleeve shirts with #blackexcellence written on their backs, as a part of their march to build a more amicable environment for African-American students on campus Saturday.
At the Sample Gates, representatives from the IU Black Student Union, the NAACP, the Indiana Memorial Union Board and more addressed about 180 demonstrators. However, senior Trey White, one of the event’s organizers, said the demonstration was not meant to be attended by any organizations in particular, but to be a march for black students as individuals to connect under one united front.
“We are not representing an organization with this,” White said. “We are coming together as black students at IU.”
Compelled by the recent racial unrest at the University of Missouri, White said he felt the march would address similar issues within the IU community.
“Obviously racism and microaggressions and slander and things like that — racially charged remarks and acts — aren’t new to IU’s campus,” White said. “But they were definitely heightened as a result of the national attention that Mizzou got. What I wanted to do was kind of bring the attention to our campus.”
Before leaving the Sample Gates, coordinators urged demonstrators not to react to any potential negative slurs or agitations that may occur throughout the march. Organizers wore yellow duct tape armbands to distinguish themselves should anyone need help along the course.
Yet, the armbands were unneeded. With the exception of one passerby on a motor scooter, the march saw no negative reactions.
“You could tell that it was received by the Bloomington community and the IU community that was present today very well,” White said.
The route of the march was planned specifically for that reason, beginning at the Sample Gates to attract the attention of both communities.
Organizers said the march exceeded far beyond their expectations.
“This was laying the groundwork for us to be able to have a platform so that we are sufficiently united so that we can go up to administration and speak to the University,” said senior Luqmann Ruth, who also helped plan the march.
Provost Lauren Robel and Dean of Students Harold “Pete” Goldsmith marched at the back of the two lines in a show of solidarity.
“This march is an incredibly positive show of unity of the members of our community,” Robel said. “I hope simply to show the students that they are valued and appreciated by the leadership of our University.”
Senior Megan Smith, an organizer of the march, said the administrators’ presence spoke volumes.
“For me personally, it says a lot,” Smith said. “Honestly, it’s not their job and they don’t have to be here, but for them to continually show up and to continually show that they are supporting us, it’s refreshing.”
Once at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, demonstrators filled a room inside, participating in an icebreaker activity where participants shared interests and linked arms to show how people from different parts of campus are more similar than would be perceived.
The march came among recent efforts of minority students to express concerns of safety and the culture climate on campus this semester.
Last month, Goldsmith organized a town hall-style meeting at the Indiana Memorial Union after a threat circulated on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak. Robel and IU Police Department Chief Laury Flint were also in attendance at the forum put on to encourage dialogue about the University’s racial climate.
White said that while he believed the intention for the meeting was good, it wasn’t what many students had expected. Some students believed the meeting brought false promises.
“Those deans didn’t have the productivity that was intended,” White said. “It didn’t generate the outcome that most of us sought.”
A student-organized event Tuesday, also at the IMU, allowed IU students to meet and discuss such concerns, as well as discuss the death of IU student Joseph Smedley in a safe environment.
Jessica David, who led the event called “The Critical Conversation: Joseph Smedley and the Aftermath,” encouraged those in attendance to support one another in making sense of sensitive topics.
“I believe it’s long overdue,” David said of the conversation. “We’re holding it to give students a space to process this openly and freely, and to help them find their voices, because I feel like it’s been silenced for too long.”
In the two-hour-long session, students broke into small groups and discussed fears of underrepresentation of minority races at the University.
David, along with a team of Counseling and Psychological Services staff and representatives from CAPS’ Diversity Outreach Team, provided information for resources such as the IU Health Center and the Center for Human Growth Counseling Services on campus.
Each group of students developed action plans for moving forward, such as planning to attend one of IU’s 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Day events or Saturday’s march.
White said the march was just the first step needed to unify black students on a solitary platform.
Next, he said the students hope to advocate for action on the part of the IU administration.
Students of the Black IUnity movement said they would like to see adversity programs put in place and more cultural events attended by all on campus to ensure greater understanding of cultural differences and to improve the retention rate of black students.
White said the movement is accepting support from all students on campus, but that the movement’s goal is to specifically focus on the issues of the 4 percent of black students that make up IU’s student body.
“It’s easy for us as black students to come together and be on one accord because we understand each other and the struggle and strife that we face on a daily basis,” White said. “But to get outsiders to realize and respect that is a whole other task in and of itself, so I feel like this is a really great starting point to kind of diminish some of the tension on campus.”
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