Marching silently through the rain behind a banner depicting Martin Luther King, Jr., UCSB faculty, administration and students reflected on the achievements of the legendary civil rights leader.
Approximately 40 participants assembled in front of Cheadle Hall before noon yesterday and proceeded to march across campus. The commemorative procession wound through the Arbor to the main entrance of the Santa Rosa Residence Hall, where students finally broke their silence, delivering speeches and reading poetry honoring King. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, an organization dedicated to strengthening bonds within the African-American community, has sponsored the event annually for the past 10 years.
Mu Kappa Chapter President Chinedu Unaka said the silent march was both a celebration of King’s achievements and a way of championing his causes.
“A silent march is a sign of unity – a testament and an agreement for the individuals participating to continue what our ancestors have already begun: A fight for equality and justice socially, culturally, economically and under the law,” Unaka said.
Unaka, a third-year sociology major, said Alpha Phi Alpha anticipates holding the event each year so that the UCSB community can renew its passion for pursuing equality.
“We are trying to help people remember how far we have come in the struggle for true equality, as well as how much more we have to accomplish in addition to ensure that Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered not only for his role in the civil rights movement, but also for his work in the anti-war movement,” Unaka said.
While the event has drawn crowds of 200 and 300 participants in the past, Jamahdi Blueford, a second-year political science and black studies major, said he believed poor weather conditions resulted in a significantly lower turnout this year.
“Of course the weather did deter a lot of people,” Blueford said.
Although smaller than usual, the group was still able to capture the attention of passersby. The procession halted traffic on the bike path, attracting a handful of students who joined mid-march.
Janelle Mungo, a second-year communications and psychology major, said she partook in the event in order to give her proper respects to the civil rights leader.
“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped everyone, so I think it’s important for everyone to celebrate his life,” Mungo said.
Once the group arrived at the final destination, Blueford was among those who delivered a speech asking the audience to contribute to the legacy of Dr. King by examining their own realities.
“We’re trying to get across that there are still a lot of things to do,” Blueford said. “Students should look at the various forms of discrimination in the world from housing discrimination to aid for Hurricane Katrina victims and then become active in student organizations, which can help to better our society.”
Also active in the event were supporters of Eric Frimpong. The former UCSB men’s soccer player was recently convicted of the rape of another UCSB student and faces up to eight years in prison following a sentencing next week. Those defending Frimpong used the march as an opportunity to display signs and distribute papers publicizing what they allege was an unfair trial of an innocent man.
The fraternity concluded the event with a segment from King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. “The program is concluded, but our work is still [not] done,” Unaka said after thanking everyone for coming out to the event.