The Marist College Community Walks for Unity
Sarah Gabrielli '18 Offers Her Account of the Unity Project's March for Peace
A small group of Marist students and faculty spent their activity hour marching for unity at a local level. On a national level, tensions have been high, the political climate has been hostile and groups have been divided after the 2016 Presidential Election. For a while, Marist students had remained quiet over the country's controversial events, until the Marist Unity Project made moves to encourage the student body to stand together and defy the divisions between the rest of the world.
"This event could be an educational moment for many," student leader, Darriel McBride posted in the facebook group in the days leading up to the event, "a moment where they realize how and why many people feel hurt and afraid."
Personally, I had been eager to find a way to get involved with the current events that had been striking the country. In the weeks following the election, the Marist Unity Project had launched, but I was waiting for an active way to make a positive difference. While it is not really in the nature of the Marist community to create controversy and conflict, it is in its nature to see a problem and try to fix it. This is why Wednesday's peaceful march, and the other events of the Unity Project, were ideal methods for Marist to respond to national controversy.
Before the march, the student leaders from the Unity Project made it undeniably clear that this was supposed to peaceful. In organizing the event, they had received Marist's approval and it seemed important for them to guarantee the safety and comfort of everyone involved. They described the march as "silent" which was not to discourage us from chatting on the walk but to deter any chanting or vulgarities from the passionate crowd. It was a peaceful demonstration, in order to make a positive statement.
"This event is not a protest but an effort to bring allies together," another student, Mariss Zuleta, posted. "This is about social justice," she explained.
The event was scheduled to take place over the course of an entire day and participants were encouraged to wear black to demonstrate unity. First, we met in the student center at noon to get organized and go over the whole "silent" rule. Walking into the conference room, I was immediately struck by the number of faculty members that showed up. There were probably just as many staff members as there were students there to support the cause. We all intermingled around tables that had been set up with colored markers and poster board, and those that were inspired used them to make signs to hold on the march. After careful thought and coloring, I completed my sign, with a statement about women's rights, and we headed out on the walk.
Outside it was raining and chilly, but we were determined to go through with the march despite the weather. The student leaders, who had previously announced that we would proceed rain or shine, gave out ponchos and slightly shortened our route.
Over the course of the trip to and from the post office, we got wetter and wetter but pushed through with a clear mission in our minds and excitement over the cause. After a few minutes my sign was reduced to a soggy pulp, but by that time I had already gotten enough nods of approval to know that I had gotten my message across. As we walked, students fell into step with their professors and got the chance to exchange their thoughts outside of the classroom setting. Round trip, we walked about two miles, but this sort of insightful conversation kept me going and it didn't end up feeling as long or as wet as it actually was.
Once we got back, members of the Unity Project spent the rest of the day debriefing from the event. Dining services had catered some snacks and sweets for the post-march and put them out in the Cabaret. We pushed the chairs into a circle and spent a while eating, sharing and writing our thoughts down on post-it notes before passing them around to read anonymously.
At the end of the day, the members of Marist's Unity March had made no tangible change. At the post office, we didn't demand anything from the federal employees or put on any huge demonstration. "Today was a success nonetheless," said one of the student organizers, Darriel McBride afterward. One student shared a piece of poetry while we all stood on the steps, just hoping to make a simple, peaceful statement. I had heard that nothing like this had happened on Marist campus in a long time, perhaps not since the Civil Rights movement. But that day I felt like we made an important stride. We were one step closer to unity.
Written by Sarah Gabrielli '18
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