On Monday, Oct. 18, hundreds of UNI student athletes and community members of the Cedar Valley area gathered at the south entrance of the McLeod Center, eager to begin the second annual UNIty march towards the Campanile, located in the center of UNI’s campus.
The first walk was a student-led initiative last fall in response to the racial and social injustices being highlighted after a summer of social justice unrest.
Panthers along with community members marched towards the Campanile with T-shirts provided by the athletic department surrounding the theme “Together We Rise,” in response to the recent racially motivated tragedies surrounding the country and rural Iowa.
Mia Rampton, student athlete, gave the program introduction and stated the importance of knowing that performative activism has no place on this campus. “Having events like this are important to drive these difficult topics home, and help us as a campus community take a step in the right direction towards building a solid, trustworthy community on campus.”
Student athletes wanted to organize a demonstration of unity and “togetherness” for the athletic department. “Everybody is fighting something different everyday – we stand next to each other, we come from different teams, different backgrounds, they fight through things you may not know, and you may never know, but you always have to be there for them like a team.”
Alfonzo Lambert, student athlete, says to the crowd, “It’s bigger than what we are doing right now; it’s bigger than sports; it’s bigger than all of us.”
The captivating energy Lambert brought into the event was confirmation towards what sort of team player he truly is on and off the field. “I know my teammates have my back, on the field and off the field.”
A number of student athletes spoke on the importance of supporting diversity and inclusion efforts as well as showing up for one another.
Following words from the student athletes, Director of Athletics, David Harris, approached the microphone to add some sentiments to conclude the event.
“Its about all of us being together and being unified,” Harris said. “Today makes a statement.”
After expressing his gratitude towards the volunteers and student athletes for coming forward last year he said, “You decided this was important. That this is a statement you wanted to make, so we are incredibly proud of you for coming together for this UNIty Walk.” He spoke fondly on the work the UNI Athletic Department has made. The athletics department has set a web page to record all of its diversity and inclusion endevours at UNIPanthers.com/inclusion.
The athletics department also participated in UNI’s campus-wide Diversity Common Read initiative that studies diversity and inclusion issues. “It takes all of us to make positive change happen,” said Harris. “There is a reason that we have on our shirts ‘Together we rise.’”
Follow social media accounts @PanthersRising on Twitter and @Panthers_Rising on Instagram for more information.