“Speak up,” Theo John said. “Us Black brothers and sisters need you.”
The Marquette men’s basketball senior forward joined hundreds of student athletes, students, coaches, faculty and staff Friday afternoon in a march to fight social inequality and injustice.
“Everyone just needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves about their own racial biases,” John said. “Or, if you are one of the people out here who may of never had a conversation with a person of color, or a minority in this country, I’d encourage you guys to reach out.”
The one-mile route stretched from the Athletic and Human Performance Research Center to Valley Fields and was organized by student athletes.
The march follows an Aug. 27 demonstration led by Black students in response to the racial injustices in Kenosha, Wisconsin after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back seven times by a police officer. A list of demands were presented to the administration, asking for more inclusivity and diversity on campus.
Thursday, the university announced its steps to create a diverse student body and improve the experiences of Black students. The university announced its hire of Shakari (Kari) Lewis as the first counselor and coordinator for Black student support in the Counseling Center. Beginning fall 2021, the university will also add 40 four-year, full tuition scholarships every year for graduating seniors from high schools around the City of Milwaukee. Room and board scholarship fundraisers are also underway.
As the large group marched Friday, those passing by raised a fist in solidarity and those driving honked their car horns.
Men’s basketball head coach Steve Wojciechowski was one of many coaches who marched alongside the athletes. He said he has been proud of the role that the team has played in bringing awareness to social injustice.
“Our guys have a big platform and they’ve used it in a very responsible and thoughtful way to try to impact change starting at Marquette, and stretching beyond Marquette to the greater Milwaukee community,” Wojciechowski said.
He said there needs to be strides in behavior and in policy every day so that everyone is allowed equal rights under the law.
“Any ways that we can impact that from our position in a very prominent program here at Marquette – we want to take the opportunity to handle that responsibility at the highest possible level,” Wojciechowski said.
Along with John who gave a speech at the conclusion of the march at Valley Fields, fellow teammate Symir Torrence spoke to the crowd, along with women’s basketball junior forward Chloe Marotta. A speech written by women’s soccer senior forward/midfielder Maggie Lena was also read.
University President Michael Lovell attended the march as well and thanked the athletes for putting the march together.
“We’re on the Friday afternoon before a long holiday weekend, and to have so many people come out just shows the unity that we have on campus,” Lovell said. “I’m proud of our student athletes for putting this on and really making a statement for what they believe in.”
This story was written by Nick Galle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @thenickgalle.