March against hate brings UAA closer together

To show their support against racism and hate Wednesday, over 30 students and faculty members gathered in the Campus Center to march against bigotry and recognition for the annual International Day Against Racism. Organizers asked for students to “raise their hand against racism” and walk the UAA campus grounds in awareness of the growing problem of racial division in Alaska.

Dean of Students Linda Lazell and associate dean of students Bruce Schultz, USUAA president Skye Rubadeau and other prominent faculty members made their awareness known as the two o'clock gathering came together.

Shairita Franklin, advisor to UAA on racial diversity issues and member of the Diversity Action Council organized the march, handing out candles and stickers to the crowd in hopes of bringing racial awareness to the university foreground.

“I want you all to think individually what you can do to end discrimination in your community,” Franklin said. “I challenge you all to look at your behaviors towards racism and think about all the victims and families who suffered casualties from discriminatory crimes.” Franklin then read names of the recently deceased who fell victim to apparent hate crimes, most of them Alaska Native women and men.

Chancellor Gorsuch was on hand as keynote speaker for the event and spoke about the injustices that plague most of the minority groups in Alaska as well as the world today.

“Hopefully the whole world will want to represent the idea that all people should be respected. Unfortunately, it is the motivation of hate that brought us all together today. Let us all try to represent the rest of our student body and administration by marching against hate,” said Gorsuch.

Beginning at the UAA Campus Center and continuing down Lake Otis Parkway to Providence Drive, the group battled the cold march winds and busy, late lunch traffic to show that small numbers do make a difference. During the march, stops outside the K Building and AHAINA Student offices were made so that faculty members could speak their mind about discrimination. Russell Pressley, president of AHAINA, made a poignant speech about the lives of those before us who endured ongoing racial suppression and turmoil.

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“Life is pretty good to me,” Pressley said. “It makes me reflect on those who went before me and gave their lives so that we could have better ones. I want you all to think about all those people who went before us and changed your life, and then I want you to yell out their names so that we can all hear.” Marchers then one by one named the influential people through history that made a difference for diversity awareness. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Matthew Shepard and others were named in remembrance for all to hear.

On the way back to the Campus Center, marchers were asked to join in and chant the slogan for Anti-Discrimination Day that was also painted in big red letters on numerous signs carried during the march.

“Many people, many lights, one heart,” yelled the supporters.

The event came to an end with marchers warming up with free cups of cocoa and poetry readings back at the Campus Center.

The overall feeling of the room was of total elation and calm.

“It was nice to see that even for one day out the year we can all come together for something many people take for granted,” said Shairita Franklin. “I think UAA does a good job respecting and celebrating the diversity of our student body, and that's what's important.”