About 30 marchers braved steadily falling snow in memoriam of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.
Organized by the Gamma Eta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the IU Student Association, the march served as an extension of the Unity Summit at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
“For me, it's just living up to what Coretta Scott wanted,” said senior D'Angelo King, IUSA chief of communications and marketing. “She tried so hard to make this a national holiday, to make it a day on, not a day off, to give back to the community, to serve, to put in that effort.”
Senior Calvin Sanders, president of Alpha Phi Alpha, said an annual march in his hometown of Hammond, Indiana, inspired him to recreate the tradition on IU’s campus.
While he received several requests to make the march longer, Sanders upheld his decision to march from Woodburn Hall to the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center due to the snow. Before the march, Sanders asked the snow plow drivers in the area to clear a path for the marchers.
Freshman Liwam Gebreslassie said the march was her first time going out of her way to do something to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
“Especially on this University campus, I feel like the black community doesn't stand out as much,” Gebreslassie said. “So this is kind of our way of doing something for us.”
Many of the marchers came from the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Leadership Breakfast and planned on attending the Unity Summit after the march. D'Angelo King said he was proud of the Hoosier community for trying to create a positive influence.
After gathering for food and refreshments in Woodburn Hall 111, the marchers walked to the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center to join other students and faculty for the annual Unity Summit.
Monica Johnson, director of the center, emphasized in her opening remarks that MLK Day is a day on, not a day off. After grabbing a boxed lunch, attendees sat down at a round table to participate in a group activity Johnson created to highlight privilege and oppression.
“I think that it's something that needs to happen,” Tislam Swift, a graduate assistant at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center said. “It's important to show people the way to recognize their privileges, recognize their differences.”
At each table, a faculty member, staff member or graduate student led group discussions surrounding the creation of a cross-cultural trail mix. Bowls of Chex Mix, marshmallows, pretzels, Goldfish Crackers, gummy bears, M&M’s and Craisins signified various elements of diversity.
Participants were instructed to draw from specific bowls depending on their answers to questions regarding experience with race, gender, family structure, sexual orientation, religion, disability and education.
After filling their bags, participants were encouraged to reflect on which areas of diversity and inclusion they were lacking.
“I thought it was really eye-opening to see what each piece represented,” freshman Faith Girton said.
Even before Johnson gathered the crowd to explain and discuss the significance of the trail-mix items, it became clear the bland-colored chex mix represented privilege, while the colorful ingredients symbolized experiences of oppression.
“We all have a bag,” Johnson said in her closing remarks. “You can determine how much extras you put in there.”
The crowd murmured and snapped in approval as participants shared ideas to diversify their bags and break down stereotypes.
“Diversify your intake of information,” Sanders said. “Look at how you consume information and how you see other people.”
Sophomore Joselin Lucas Rojas said the activity inspired her to visit more culture centers on campus so she can connect with people of different backgrounds.
“I just hang out with people of my color,” Rojas said. “But I always want to break that barrier. The only reason why I do that was because I'm really comfortable.”
In his closing remarks, Black Graduate Student Association President Zachary Price advised the audience to reflect on fear, evaluate purpose, focus on intentions, embrace the uncomfortable and practice the spirit of gratitude.
“There's somebody who wishes they could be here to share in this moment with you right now,” Price said. “And we owe it to them to empower one another, the ones that aren't here, the ones that are without the powe r we have.”