A group of students and faculty marched Uptown on Saturday, March 2, carrying signs with messages of love, acceptance and diversity. Although the group was small, about 30 people, their voices carried and caused many to turn and look as they passed. Some cars blew their horns, to the excitement of the crowd.
“Love not hate! Make Miami great,” the marchers shouted, their chants piercing through the silence of Miami University’s campus that afternoon.
The unity march was sponsored by the Diversity Affairs Council (DAC) and served as the kickoff to Diversity Week: eight days of programs dedicated to various aspects of diversity and inclusion, raising awareness for issues related to race, gender and disability.
The annual march is not a form of protest, said DAC President Monica Venzke. Rather, it is meant to bring together people from all walks of life in a peaceful expression of unity.
Although the goal was to create unity, many of the people in attendance were members of the same few student organizations.
“There’s a lot of different organizations that represent specific identities, which is fantastic and they need that,” Venzke said. “But having an event where people can come and just meet people they normally wouldn’t have met in their daily lives makes people feel a little bit more at home here.”
The afternoon’s events began in Armstrong Student Center (ASC), where students and faculty crafted signs before the march. Then Ron Blassingame, a Miami alum who works as one of Miami’s financial aid counselors, gave the keynote address.
Blassingame described his experiences growing up African-American in the inner city of Cincinnati. Living in Oxford was his first time living in a mostly white environment.
“I think just speaking for myself and for a lot of people that are a part of a marginalized group, oftentimes there’s some sort of shock coming to Oxford because you feel like you’re gonna do your time here alone,” Blassingame said. “Because there’s a lot of people that don’t look like you.”
He went on to describe how he found a community at Miami after meeting other African American students and how his experiences here shaped who he is as a person.
After Blassingame finished speaking, the group headed out to begin the march. They walked through campus toward Uptown, escorted by Miami University Police Department (MUPD) officers on bicycles.
“My experience at Miami has proven there is a lot of hate and ignorance on this campus, so I just felt like I needed to say something, do something,” said Trey Mathews, a junior mechanical engineering major.
The march promoted the idea of togetherness and the need for community all the time, not just when an act of hate happens to provoke activism.
“I feel like just because something doesn’t really happen in the community, we can still voice our opinion and just speak up,” said Bri Ousley, DAC’s co-director of programming.
The group that marched Uptown represented the diversity that exists at Miami – people of different races and sexual orientations, people from varying backgrounds and social groups on campus – coming together for a common purpose.
“I think it’s a really fantastic opportunity to demonstrate unity in the community, and there’s a need for it in our world today,” said Devin Ferraro, associate director of diversity affairs.